Disabled People in the Housing Sector Inquiry


A Government Inquiry, Call for Evidence.

Submission

Shannon Johnstone and I made FOI requests to 18 different councils across the country to find out if people with disabilities that meant they needed accessible accommodation had to wait longer than those without disabilities through the housing register. Through our previous casework we had reason to believe that people with mobility-related disabilities had to wait significantly longer.

Of the councils we requested information from X didn’t reply at all. V number replied but said it would take too much time to provide the data. U provided irrelevant information that was not asked for, or incomplete data sets that could not be used to make a comparison. T did respond with meaningful data. S responded with data but the recent change in their system means there was not enough data to be statistically significant.

Of the two which did provide meaningful data (Luton Borough and Central Bedfordshire Council), the data was broken down into banding and number of bedrooms needed. For both of these councils, at least one of these categories showed a significant negative disparity of waiting times between those with and without a need for accessible housing. In order to get meaningful data, we only asked about households categorised as homeless on the housing register, as most policies give better banding for mobility issues under the Part 6 process, whereas Part 7 applications tend not to award additional banding. This in itself could be something councils consider with their allocation scheme – i.e. to give additional banding to homeless households with a need for accessible accommodation.

The FOIs showed that the way councils approached the issue of waiting times varied significantly, with some councils (e.g. Central Bedfordshire, Luton) apparently able to provide the data without much difficulty at all, whereas others (e.g. Buckinghamshire and Gateshead) did not appear to hold records that enabled them to answer the question without going back to the raw data which would take longer than the FOI time limits allowed. We would be interested to know with such councils how they use their equality monitoring data – it seems it would not be difficult to set IT systems up to capture this variable.

I am unsure how this lack of easy to access data is compliant with 5.62 of the National Planning Policy Framework and I wonder how that fits into the Equality Act, considering that the local government and central government are under the Public Sector Equality Duty. There is no definition under the Glossary within the National Planning Policy Framework which is perhaps an area of possible improvement – one local authority interestingly questioned what we meant by accessible, and if there is not clear definitions under the main framework they are expected to use, how are they supposed to inform their plans effectively and provide accessible housing?  

Luton Borough Council

Luton Borough Council provided the data we asked for.

Luton’s Allocation Scheme mean that all household owed the main housing duty will be placed in Band 2, meaning it is possible to compare the waiting times for those with and without a need for accessible housing with other variables removed.

For those with a one bed need, the average waiting time for households with a need for accessible housing was 1382 days, but for those in this band without a need for accessible housing, the average waiting time was less than a quarter of this – just 296 days. This would strongly suggest that Luton Borough Council have not ensured there is enough one bed accessible housing available for those on the housing register.

For larger households in Luton the picture was much better. For households which needed a 2 bed for general needs properties, the average wait was 948 days, but for those with a 2 bed need for accessible housing, the waiting time was a third less – just 614 days

For those with a 3 bed need, the average waiting times for general needs properties was 3278 days, but for those which needed accessible housing it was just 531 days.

And for those which needed 4 or more bedrooms, the average waiting times was 3598 days whereas those who needed accessible housing was a quarter less at 2716 days.

These figures would suggest that Luton Borough Council has ensured that there are enough accessible properties available for 2 beds or more which means people with disabilities are not discriminated against.

Manchester City Council

Manchester City Council did not provide the data that was requested, but did point us to a link (https://homes.manchestermove.co.uk/choice/content.aspx?pageid=13) that stated that ‘Waiting times for adapted properties may be longer than average due to high demand’. This wording is interesting as it seems a better way to phrase this would be that the waiting times may be higher due to low supply, but nonetheless suggests that Manchester is aware of the issue of poor supply of accessible housing.

Central Bedfordshire Council

Central Bedfordshire Council did provide the data we requested.

For 1 bed properties, the average waiting times for those with and without a need for accessible accommodation was 338 (accessible) and 353 (general needs) – so those with a need for accessible accommodation has to wait slightly less.

Similarly for 2 bed properties the average waiting times for those with and without a need for accessible accommodation was 327 and 331 respectively – again, a slightly lower waiting time for those with a need for accessible accommodation.

For 3 bed properties however, there was a stark difference in waiting times. For those with a need for accessible accommodation, the average wait was 845 days compared to 484 days – nearly double. The data we received stated that there were no households which needed a 4 bed accessible property which means we cannot make a comparison for this category.

This data would suggest that Central Bedfordshire Council has ensured sufficient supply of accessible 1 and 2 bed properties, but not 3 bed properties.

Conclusion

It is unfortunate that only 2 out of 18 councils supplied the requested data, but this in itself is of interest to us – that the majority of councils could not readily provide important data that would enable them to monitor whether there is sufficient supply of adequate housing. And for the two councils that did respond, certain household types were much worse of if they had a need for accessible housing.

Given that the lack of accessible housing has long been recognised, it seems that local authorities need to gather clear data to identify where they are successfully supplying enough accessible housing, and when they are not. So one thing the government can do is to require local authorities to record and provide this kind of data to build up a local understanding of any disparities.

I will finish by explaining my interest in this topic. Just before covid I assessed a family living in a tower block. The grand parent had had a stroke and was unable to leave her bed. The social worker and occupational therapist had assessed the property as being unsuitable to carry out any kind of meaningful therapy. The doors were not wide enough to get a wheelchair through, and the lift was often out of order. Whilst legally homeless, the local council had no accessible temporary accommodation. Waiting lists for a large enough property that was accessible meant that the grandparent will likely die in that property. I was not able to secure a positive outcome for the family, not because of council gatekeeping or perverse decision making, but because the government had not ensured adequate supply of accessible housing. As far as I know, the grandparent still lives there, bound to their bed, waiting to die.

– Mike Hyden and Shannon Johnstone, Homelessness Best Practice CIC