A Labour MP who came under fire this week for posting on social media that she had rejected a housing proposal for people with a learning disability in her area has said “she understands her tweet could have been more thoughtfully worded and she would be more careful in the future”.
Paulette Hamilton, Labour MP for Birmingham, Erdington, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that she had supported local residents in opposing a proposal to change a single dwelling house into five self contained flats for people with a learning disability.
In the post, she said that it would have caused increased noise, parking, and a change in the character of the property, which would have negatively affected the area.
An attached letter went on to say that she was well aware of the issues linking non-family residential accommodations with anti-social behaviour and she was also concerned that the proposal would have an adverse effect on the amenity of the neighbouring properties as it would result in increased noise, disturbance, traffic and parking.
The post caused a backlash with many campaigners and carers saying the decision was ‘discriminatory’ and suggested that housing people with a learning disability changed the character of the area in a negative fashion.
Concerns were of placing vulnerable young people in an unsafe environment
Paulette Hamilton, however, told Learning Disability Today that in this particular instance, her concerns were of placing vulnerable young people in an unsafe environment, where residents are already struggling with overcrowding.
She added: “I want to make it absolutely clear that I wholeheartedly support initiatives for disability-friendly housing in Erdington. As a former district nurse with 25 years of experience, I recognise the importance of providing safe and secure housing for individuals with disabilities.
“In Erdington, crime and antisocial behaviour are significant issues, and the proliferation of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) has been closely linked to these concerns.
“My main concern about this planning application – as I expressed in my letter to the Planning Committee – was about the safety, inclusivity and accessibility that this location could provide to vulnerable residents.”
🚨 Harrison Road planning application REJECTED
I supported local residents in opposing this proposal, as it would have caused increased noise, parking, and a change in the character of the property, which would have negatively affected the area.
Hamilton referenced a host of stories in the local press about crime in the area linked to HMOs. One story stated that West Midlands Ambulance Service was called out to treat an average of three victims a month in her area. It said: “The B23 area; covering Erdington, alongside parts of Stockland Green and Kingstanding, was rocked by 37 reported knife attacks – making it the ‘worst’ area for stabbings in the city.”
Another news report referred to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee inquiry, which concluded that the current system of exempt accommodation, a type of supported housing that is used to house a range of people with support needs, was a ‘complete mess’ that was failing too many residents and local communities at the expense of the taxpayer.
Birmingham was among the hotspots highlighted in the report “where residents and communities are being failed while unscrupulous providers make excessive profits by capitalising on loopholes in the system”. The committee said it had been reported in the media that these providers have included organised criminal gangs, who use the system to launder money.
Lack of housing for people with a learning disability is seen as human rights scandal
The initial response to her tweet was not surprising as lack of suitable housing for people with a learning disability in the community is a huge issue. Currently, over 2,000 people with a learning disability or autistic people are being held in inpatient mental health hospitals in England.
According to Mencap, many people are locked up because there is a lack of the right community support, skilled social care, and suitable housing – not because of a mental health problem.
Over the last 12 years, the government has promised to reduce the number of people with a learning disability and autistic people in inpatient mental health hospitals. They have repeatedly missed their own deadlines, and the progress by government, the NHS and local authorities has been far too slow.
Campaigners say it is not only lengthy stays and missed targets that make this a human rights scandal, but there are also consistent reports of serious abuse from a number of these settings.
In April this year, Labour MP Barbara Keeley led a debate in the House of Commons asking the government to urgently rectify the situation. She said that 41% of people did not need to be in hospital at all. NHS England stated that many people could not be discharged because there was no adequate care provision in the community and because staff did not always have the training necessary to support people’s transfer from hospital.
Since she took office in March 2022, Hamilton has objected to numerous planning applications for HMOs in her area stating that it already has the highest number of HMOs for a single ward across Birmingham.