Alastair Graham GLHIn this guest blog, Alastair Graham, director of housing provider Golden Lane Housing, talks about why the organisation has taken the step to become a Registered Provider with the Homes and Communities Agency. 

My guess is that a lot of people reading this will have a home that they call their own. They may own or rent it, share it or live on their own, but it will be theirs. But this is not true for many people with a learning disability.  

Mencap’s research has found that most people with a learning disability want to live in supported housing in the community, yet only 16% do so.  

Golden Lane Housing (GLH) was established by Mencap in 1998 to provide supported housing for people with a learning disability in the community and we now do this for more than 1,400 tenants across the country.      

It is important for people with a learning disability, as well as their families and carers, to have their own home. One of our tenants is Stephen McHale. His mother, Teresa, told us that she will “never forget the smile on Stephen’s face when we viewed the house. We pulled up outside and a beaming smile appeared that will stay with me forever.” She added that: “we are very happy knowing our son has a safe and a secure future ahead of him.” This shows that having ones own home can also offer peace of mind to their family.  

At GLH, we are very proud of what we have achieved but are all too aware that this is the tip of an iceberg when it comes to finding homes for people with a learning disability. There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK and most live with their parents, who in many cases are growing old and struggling to cope, or in residential care homes or large, often remote institutions. 

We are always looking for opportunities to further develop the housing that GLH is able to provide.  That’s why in January GLH became a Registered Provider (RP) with the Homes and Communities Agency. This was not an easy decision for us and our trustees as registration comes with certain restrictions on what we can and cannot do and more onerous administrative processes such as being monitored on governance and financial viability.

However, the benefits of becoming a RP make this worthwhile. For example, it will provide additional security to our existing tenants by reducing the chances of having their housing benefit restricted due to subsidy arrangements that apply in relation to local authorities and RPs. This uncertainty can cause great anxiety for people with a learning disability and their families.  

Another significant advantage is that it will also enable us to offer a wider range of housing by making schemes viable that would have previously not been possible at rents restricted to Local Housing Allowance levels. For example, we have previously struggled to offer housing for single people, or those who want or need to live on their own, but being a RP will allow GLH to provide these types of residences.  

Helping to address the housing crisis for people with a learning disability continues to ask searching questions of organisations working in this area. Over the past few years we have pioneered potential solutions, such as creating the first charity bond to be listed on the London Stock Exchange, which raised £11 million in 8 days and allowed GLH to find homes for more than 100 people. We believe that becoming a RP is as significant, as it offers greater security to our existing tenants and enables us to provide more, and different, types of housing for the thousands of people with a learning disability throughout the UK who need it. 

The next time you read an article about housing for people with a learning disability, let’s hope far more than 16% are living in their own home. The sector must keep working towards this end.