Thousands of disabled people in Scotland are being robbed of their dignity and independence due to the nation’s chronic shortage of accessible housing, the UK’s human rights watchdog has warned.
Failings by the Scottish Government and local councils have created a “hidden crisis” which is set to worsen, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says in a report published today.
Many disabled people are unable to leave their homes or are forced to live in a single room due to lack of suitable housing and long waiting lists for adaptations, it concludes.
Some rely on family members to carry them upstairs or between rooms, with the watchdog warning that coping with such issues every day can cause a “serious deterioration” in their mental health.
The report comes after the i newspaper launched a campaign on the issue called Fair Housing For All, which has sought to raise awareness of the living problems faced by thousands of people.
Its investigation found that almost 10,000 disabled people across Scotland are waiting for more suitable council houses – with one person requesting a change of property in 1969.
The EHRC report calls on the Scottish Government to take urgent action by setting a new national target of building at least 10 per cent of all new housing to accessible home standards.
It also calls for the creation of an accessible housing register, so disabled people know when adaptable housing becomes available to rent or buy, and for adaptations to be installed faster.
The report warns of a “chronic shortage” of accessible homes and says the Scottish Government’s plan to build 50,000 new houses by 2021 may not be enough, with demand set to rise by 80 per cent over the next five years.
It says only 41 per cent of Scottish councils deliver housing adaptations within eight weeks of a decision, with some disabled people waiting for six months or more.
“During our inquiry we heard many stories of people unable to leave their homes, restricted to eating, sleeping and bathing in one room, and loved ones risking their own health to carry family members upstairs or between rooms,” said John Wilkes, head of the EHRC in Scotland.
“The effect of this cannot be understated. It impacts on every aspect of a disabled person’s life, their ability to participate in family life, to work, to access education and social life.”