Urgent government action is needed to address the rising problem of a shortage of suitable housing for adults with learning disabilities, Mencap has warned.
The interim findings from a report into the provision of housing for people with a learning disability found that while demand for services is rising, local authorities are increasingly struggling to meet this need. This could mean that many more adults with learning disabilities continue to live with their parents long into their adult lives, rather than being supported to live independently.
In the study, which included Freedom of Information requests to 174 local authorities in England and Wales and surveys or interviews with 39 of them, 89% said there has been an increase in the number of people with a learning disability requiring housing support in the past three years. Despite this, the vast majority of local authorities – 82% – said there is a shortage of housing for adults with learning disabilities. While 94% of local authorities surveyed agree that more needs to be done to meet the housing needs of adults with learning disabilities, finance was highlighted as the biggest stumbling block to achieving this. This includes proposed in the government’s welfare reform bill – currently making its way through the House of Lords – which outline changes to housing benefit and social housing. But this is a problem that is set to get worse.
Based on current accommodation trends and population growth, it is estimated that there will need to be 19,860 new registered care places and at least 14,222 extra supported accommodation places in England and Wales over the next 15 years.
Dan Scorer, Mencap’s national campaigns manager, said: “People with a learning disability have the right to lead their lives like anyone else. This must include being able to live as independently as possible, close to friends and family and a support network. “However, as this research shows the proposed government changes to housing benefit and supported housing are putting additional pressure on the ability of local authorities to find effective solutions to the housing needs of people with a learning disability as well as leaving people uncertain about their future. It is essential that they do not lose out in these reforms. “We know that the vast majority of people with a learning disability want to have the opportunity to live more independently but without urgent action from central government and local authorities it is doubtful that this aspiration will be realised, and more people with a learning disability may end up living with their parents into old age, who could live independently.”