Source: i News
Housing is probably the top issue in my mail bag.
Some of the most heart-breaking cases are constituents who desperately need an accessible home for a wide range of reasons.
My very first case was a woman and her concerned daughter who needed a ground floor property because she had recently undergone a heart operation and suffered from extreme breathlessness, meaning she could not climb her stairs.
She was virtually housebound because of this. It was clear that her life would be hugely enhanced if she had a ground floor flat.
I had to advise her that in my experience she might not get the home she needed, due to long waiting lists and not enough suitable homes.
It is just one example of someone who needed to be rehoused due to poor health. There are many others. This case is indicative of a much wider problem.
There are so many more people in need of an accessible home. Perhaps the most obvious are the 87,340 wheelchair users in Scotland.
One in five people from that number are living in unsuitable homes (17,226). Here is the important figure, though: by 2024 it is projected that there will be an 80 per cent increase in the number of wheelchair users.
Disabled people’s rights
We are not building or adapting anywhere near enough houses to keep pace with current needs and we are certainly not equipped for the predicted increase in people who will need homes which meet wheelchair space standards.
Labour are committed to building 10 per cent of new affordable homes to wheelchair accessible standards.
Our manifesto commitment was to build 60,000 affordable homes in the term of this Parliament. That would have meant an increase of 1,200 accessible homes a year.
In my view, it will be by necessity that accessibility will be the next big policy area for housing.
According to Inclusion Scotland, the design standard for socially-rented housing – Housing for Varying Needs – is 20 years old and needs to be updated to take account of larger wheelchairs and other improvements in inclusive design.
The Chartered Institute for Housing points out that it is not just the house design that is important but the location of the housing itself.
They emphasise that there need to be facilities nearby that are easy to access.
Disabled people have the right to be involved in all aspects of community, to enjoy a social life, education and employment. A well designed, suitable home is the key to ensuring that this is possible.
I am pleased to report that in the case of the lady I mentioned earlier we had a successful outcome.
Unfortunately, it is not the experience of many others who are on long waiting lists and are currently living in unsuitable accommodation.
The best way to change this is to work together with the housing sector and disability groups to argue for a minimum number of accessible homes, to guarantee that no-one has to put up with living in a house which is unfit for their needs.