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“Britain’s planning rules are fueling a housing “crisis” for the elderly and disabled which is forcing the frail to live in dangerous conditions, a leaked report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission seen by the Telegraph has found.
The Commission’s report, due to be released next month, found a “severe shortage of accessible and adaptable housing” with only seven per cent of homes in England offering minimal accessibility features.
It warns that local councils are failing to build enough accessible homes to meet demand and were not taking action against developers who failed to comply with regulations.
The Commission, a human rights watchdog, said that at least ten per cent of all future housing should be built with a growing elderly and disabled population in mind and that local authorities must reduce the bureaucratic hurdles for adapting homes.
The report comes at a time of a growing social care crisis in Britain with many elderly and frail people stuck in hospitals, unable to be discharged due to inadequate housing.
At the same time, younger Britons are struggling to get on to the housing ladder with older people unable to downsize due to a lack of suitable properties.
Following an inquiry into the state of housing for disabled people in Britain, the Commission reported that the “acute housing crisis“ was leaving elderly and disabled people in unsafe homes and leading to accidents and hospital admissions.
The report’s executive summary, seen by the Telegraph, said that some people were forced into “eating, sleeping and bathing in one room” and to rely on family members to carry them between rooms and up stairs.
Local authorities told the Commission that developers are “reluctant to build accessible houses, as they see them as less profitable”, and often failed to comply with accessibility standards.
Disabled older people are being let down and this is a stark reminder that urgent action is needed, which is the least they deserve in a compassionate society.
Despite this, just three per cent of councils took enforcement action against developers who failed to meet these standards, the Commission found.
The report also said that people were forced to wait an average of 22 weeks between application and the installation of home adaptations necessary to live safely and independently, with some waiting for more than a year.
The Commission’s report said that better housing would help ease the health and social care crisis as it found that poor housing led to an “increased need for social care” and “avoidable hospital admissions”.
Responding to the report, charities warned that the lack of suitable housing was exacerbating the NHS crisis as elderly and disabled people were forced to stay in hospital for longer due to a lack of safe accommodation.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “Providing accessible homes must be seen as core to reducing pressure on social care and the NHS.
“If these recommendations are implemented they will help many more older and disabled people to receive care and support at home.”
She added: “It’s vital that we build safe, accessible, high quality homes that work for all generations and that don’t undermine our ability to stay independent as we get older.”
George McNamara, director of policy and public affairs at Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said: “These are some of the most vulnerable people but they’re forgotten when it comes to housing policy. They are being discriminated against by a system that doesn’t work for them.
“This issue is only going to become more important as our population ages and people have a greater need for specialist housing that addresses all their health and care needs.
“Disabled older people are being let down and this is a stark reminder that urgent action is needed, which is the least they deserve in a compassionate society.”
Rob Wilson, former Government minister for civil society, said: “This isn’t a new problem, but this is a timely report and reminder that disabled people face enormous challenges with getting appropriate housing.
“Almost every local authority area faces the same difficulty in getting enough wheelchair accessible houses built.
“The Government’s drive to increase house building is very welcome, but clearly there is much more to do for those with these special requirements.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said councils needed “greater planning powers and resources to hold developers to account”.
“Housing is too often unavailable, unaffordable, and not appropriate for everyone that needs it. This includes the availability of homes suitable for older people and people in vulnerable circumstances,” she said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Our new planning rules make clear that councils must take the needs of elderly and disabled people into account when planning new homes in their area.
“We’re also providing councils with almost £1 billion over the next two years to adapt properties for disabled and older people so they can live independently and safely.”