Disabled people losing out in moves to tackle homelessness

Thousands of disabled people living in unsuitable homes across Scotland risk being 'overlooked' by efforts to tackle homelessness, a report by a leading charity has warned.

More visible forms of homelessness have taken precedence. Picture: John Devlin

Inclusion Scotland said many disabled people were living in houses which did not meet their basic needs, but that other “much more visible” forms of homelessness were taking precedence.

Official housing figures suggest that up to 61,000 households include a disabled person who cannot get up or down the stairs inside their own home.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Analysis of the Scottish House Condition Survey also suggests around 34,000 disabled people find it impossible or difficult to access their bath or shower, while 9,000 cannot get to their own toilet.

The charity said this means that many disabled people in Scotland meet the criteria for homelessness as set out in the 1987 Housing Act.

The legislation states that a person should be treated as homeless if it would not be “reasonable” to expect them to continue to occupy their existing accommodation.

“It is reasonable to expect a disabled person to live in a house where they cannot wash themselves, use the toilet or get up and down the stairs?” said Inclusion Scotland policy officer Susie Fitton.

The charity is worried that thousands of disabled people are being “hidden” from the public debate about homelessness, as they do not know they have a right to describe themselves this way.

In November, ministers announced a £50 million action plan which shifted efforts towards the “rapid rehousing” of people in temporary accommodation or at risk of becoming homeless.

But Ms Fitton said: “What happens to the thousands of disabled people who don’t present as homeless but who need to be rehoused because their current home is unsuitable and cannot be adapted?

“It’s not that we want more disabled people to be presenting as homeless, but rather a national strategy aimed at improving the supply and allocation of accessible homes and support for adaptations.”

Scottish Labour’s housing spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said disabled ­people in Scotland were being “robbed of their dignity and independence” due to a ­chronic shortage of accessible housing.

“I support all measures that can be taken to tackle homelessness, but it is important that disabled people left ­suffering in unsuitable housing are not further disadvantaged because they have not presented as homeless,” she added.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Making sure everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to our drive for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”