Spinal Injuries Association and Aspire Lead Campaign Against Inaccessible Housing Crisis
The Spinal Injuries Association and Aspire, two leading disability charities in the UK, recently issued a joint press release calling on the government to address the housing crisis facing disabled individuals, especially those with mobility impairments.
Government Backtracks on Funding Increase
In a move that could significantly worsen the housing crisis for disabled individuals, the government has recently backtracked on its commitment to increase the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) - a critical source of funding for adapting homes for disabled people in England. This decision has sparked outrage among charities and affected individuals, who warn of the devastating consequences for those in desperate need of safe, accessible living spaces.
Lack of Funding Leaves Homes Inaccessible
The Disabled Facilities Grant, used to fund vital home adaptations like stairlifts or wet rooms, has been capped at £30,000 since 2008. This does not cover costs today due to inflation and rising build expenses.
Over 400,000 wheelchair users are forced to live in unsuitable homes nationwide (Papworth Trust). The shortage of affordable, accessible properties causes severe hardship.
Deteriorating Health and Safety
Inaccessible housing significantly worsens disabled residents’ health outcomes:
- 3-6% increased risk of falls and injuries (NHS)
- Mental health declines due to loss of independence
- Social isolation and inability to work
Case Study from Spinal Injuries Association
Kenny Hughes struggles to wash safely in his home, falling and further injuring existing pressure sores (Spinal Injuries Association).
His story illustrates the hidden suffering behind statistics.
Kenny Hughes, who has been supported by Spinal Injuries Association sustained a spinal cord injury 18 months ago and is paralysed from the waist down. The father from Rochdale is currently living in a ground floor flat which is totally unsuitable for his needs. It means everyday tasks like washing himself can be difficult and dangerous.
“Maybe once every three weeks I will have a shower," said Kenny. “Then I just use wipes in bed, clean myself off using wipes. I don’t have carers and I can’t afford to pay for carers, so I just have one every now and again. It is too dangerous, I can fall and my feet get tangled up behind the sink, in between the feet of the chair, and it takes the scabs that I’ve got on my ankles, which are pressure sores, and it rips them off. They are dressed by a district nurse twice a week but they’re not getting better because of where I am living.”
“It’s like we don’t matter anymore, I’m just shocked. With inflation everything should be going up and now the cost of building work is huge compared to even three years ago. Everyone’s wages are going up but I am stuck in this property now as if I don’t matter.”
Government Inaction Perpetuates Crisis
The Government’s Stance
In response, the Department for Health and Social Care points to additional funding and a focus on social care transformation. Yet, for many affected, this response falls short of addressing the immediate and escalating needs for accessible housing.
In addition to more funding, urgent policy changes are imperative to aid disabled individuals, including:
- Building over 100,000 new accessible social homes per year (Habinteg)
- Reforming regulations to improve accessibility in 7% of existing homes (Equality and Human Rights Commission)
- Holding local authorities accountable for multi-year accessible housing waiting lists
The human right to an accessible, affordable home must be recognized. Inaction continues to endanger and isolate disabled residents nationwide. This situation is more than a funding issue; it’s about recognizing and addressing the systemic barriers that prevent disabled individuals from living safely and independently.
Useful Products Are Not a Complete Solution
While permanent home modifications through the Disabled Facilities Grant remain critical, some assistive products can also temporarily improve accessibility and independence. Items like the Tru Grip door handle or T-Pull door closer make opening and closing doors easier for wheelchair users. Portable aids like the Curve wheelchair tray facilitate eating or working from a chair.
Bathroom accessibility can be temporarily assisted with products like the Buckingham Foldeasy Toilet Safety Frame for support getting on and off the toilet. Freshwipes Anti-Bacterial Full Body Wipes allow washing when bathing facilities are inadequate or dangerous to access.
However, these do not replace necessary adaptations like ramps, stairlifts or wet rooms. As the Spinal Injuries Association highlights, lacking proper facilities forces disabled individuals like Kenny Hughes into dangerous situations that risk further injury and deterioration. While products can temporarily assist, only suitable permanent modifications ensure safety and dignity.
The human rights of disabled residents can only be met through increased government support. But individuals in crisis may find some relief using specialised equipment as an imperfect short-term solution. With adequate funding and policy changes, permanent home adaptations would prevent dependence on makeshift, unreliable workarounds. Assistive devices help cope but don’t address the urgent need for accessible, affordable housing nationwide.
What Can Be Done?
- Raise Awareness: Share stories like Kenny’s on social media to bring visibility to the issue.
- Advocate for Change: Support charities in their efforts to lobby for increased DFG funding.
- Community Support: Engage in local initiatives to assist those in need of home adaptations.