A leading charity says a lack in credible housing policy from Government to address the care needs of older and disabled people represents a ‘national health issue’.
Research published by Carers UK reveals how poor housing and care policy is failing unpaid carers and their families, who are struggling to provide safe care in inaccessible and unsuitable homes.
Despite an aging population and more people living with disability or a long-term health issue, 95% of homes in the UK are currently deemed as inaccessible.
Furthermore, just 5% of current housing stock in the UK are specialist homes that cater for specific care and support needs.
A survey of 5,000 carers by Carers UK found that one in five were waiting for adaptations to be made to their home.
10% said their home was in poor condition, damp or disrepair, rising to 15% of carers renting privately.
The survey also found that 15% of carer’s didn’t have the space for someone to provide overnight care, rising to 19% for those living in social housing.
13% said there wasn’t enough space to live comfortably, rising to 18% among those in social housing.
Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “There are currently 6.5 million people across the UK caring unpaid for an older, ill or disabled relative or friend.
“This number is predicted to continue to grow, as we live longer, often with long-term health conditions or disability and because social care services have not kept pace with growing demands for care. This is forcing more families to step in to look after their loved ones, often without the support they need.
“The failure of the UK’s housing stock to adapt to the changing demands of an ageing population is making it more difficult for carers and those they care for to manage at home.
“Unless this is addressed, carers will be unable to cope at home, placing increased pressure on an already fragile social care system.
“Time is not on our side – as more of us begin to take on caring roles, we need the right housing to be able to do so safely and well.
“The Government has already identified the importance of improving support for carers through the development of its Carer’s Strategy, and this must extend to housing.
“Until a national cross-Government housing and care strategy is developed, with needs of an ageing population at its heart, carers will continue to struggle in homes that are inaccessible and unsuitable for caring.”
A separate report from the London School of Economics (LSE) for the disability charity Papworth Trust and the housing association Habinteg highlights a ‘hidden housing market’, revealing that 1.8 million disabled people have unmet housing needs.
The report found significant demand among people with disabilities for accessible housing to rent and buy.
It also warns of “profound effects on working age disabled people of not having their need for accessible housing met, including an impact on health and wellbeing, the ability to engage in community life and, crucially, the employment market”.
Main findings from the report include:
- 1.8 million disabled people have an unmet housing need – 580,000 of whom are of working age (there are 11.6 million disabled people in the UK)
- Of the 1.8 million disabled people needing accessible homes, 56% are home owners with 39% having incomes in the top half of the income distribution
- 19% of the British public would most favour moving to a different property specifically designed or adapted to enable them to live independently in later life
- Impact of unmet housing need for accessible housing – disabled people living in inaccessible homes are four times more likely to be unemployed.
Vicky McDermott Chief Executive of Papworth Trust said: “It has been widely assumed that disabled people do not have the means or money to purchase their own home. This report clearly dispels this myth and shows the demand for buying accessible homes, and the opportunity for developers to look again at their market.
“Papworth Trust’s and Habinteg’s on-going extensive research looks into the housing market, but also the impact the lack of accessible homes creates, highlighting the fact that people living in inaccessible homes are four times more likely to be unemployed.
“Building more accessible homes is a fundamental part of future-proofing the housing market, with a short term investment and a long term positive social impact on other services.”
Paul Gamble, Chief Executive of Habinteg said: “Habinteg and others have campaigned about the lack of accessible housing provision in the UK for a long time.
“This new evidence is extremely important to the growing alliance who wants to see an increasing supply of accessible housing to rent and buy.
“New homes that are accessible, affordable and available must play a part in addressing the long term demands of UK housing policy, especially as the population ages.
“We’re hoping to see a new commitment to this from the government, local authorities and developers from now on.”
The report makes the following key recommendations:
- Developers should look again at their target markets and products. Are they missing out on a significant market opportunity?
- Developers, planners and health and social care commissioners should take note of the desire of the public to maintain independence in mainstream housing and communities as they age or develop needs for care and support
- Government departments should collaborate to investigate the relationship between unmet need for accessible housing and being out of work. As part of the government drive to reduce the employment gap for disabled people, understanding the fundamental role that appropriate housing play will be crucial
- Improving our national data resources is critical if we are to respond effectively to the nation’s housing needs. Disregarding the needs of families with disabled children from the official statistics is a missed opportunity to match housing need with accurate, evidence based plans