Housing provision leaving Scottish wheelchair users behind, new research shows

Over 17,200 wheelchair users in Scotland do not have a suitable home and this unmet need is set to increase by 80% by 2024. 

These are the headline findings of a major new report published by Horizon Housing Association and North Star Consulting and Research and endorsed by the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland.

The report - “Still minding the step? A new estimation of housing need among wheelchair users in Scotland” - estimates that there are 87,340 wheelchair users in Scotland (3.6% of all households). Of these, one in four indoor wheelchair users say their home is not suitable for their needs. It also estimates that 17,226 wheelchair user households across Scotland are in significant housing need (19.1% of all wheelchair user households).

The report also projects a sharp rise in the number of wheelchair users by 2024/25 based on current health trends. It highlights the diversity of circumstances of wheelchair users and makes recommendations for a three tier approach to addressing need, which it says should include the design and supply of new homes, adaptations and effective allocation of adapted rented housing.

The publication suggests how local authorities can better assess housing need among wheelchair users in their area, and recommends that Scottish Government set a national guideline target that 10% of new homes are built to wheelchair accessible standards

Horizon Housing Association is a leading provider of accessible and affordable housing and services that enable people to live full independent lives in the community of their choice. Managing Director Julia Fitzpatrick, said:

"It is encouraging to see the progress many local authorities have made since our first report in 2012, but it is simply not far enough or fast enough to cope with an exponentially growing need. Horizon wants to see fully accessible and adaptable homes included in all new housing developments as a matter of course. Improving access to support with adapting existing homes and in our approaches for enabling disabled people to find suitable homes in the rented sector are equally important.  Disabled people have the right to be involved in community and social life, education or employment and a well-designed and manageable home is the cornerstone.”

Amanda Britain, former Chair and member of CIH Scotland’s Board, who contributed a foreword to the new research, said: “This is an important report, not only for the housing sector but equally for health and social care, where pressures and costs will increase if wheelchair users have to live in inappropriate housing. The human impact of failing to get this right is enormous. The shortfall in suitable housing provision for wheelchair users and the huge growth in future demand identified by this report cannot be ignored. A concerted and coordinated effort is needed to ensure that its key recommendations are properly acknowledged and addressed.”