Let’s really ‘empower every person to realise their potential’

8 September 2014

Jane Harrisby Jane Harris

With eight months to go to the next UK general election, the Liberal Democrats today gave us a hint of the policies that will form their manifesto — a manifesto they say will ‘empower every person to realise their own potential’.

The party’s pre-manifesto (PDF) talks a lot about housing. It’s a huge issue for everyone so it’s good but not unexpected to see a clear focus on ensuring that we're building enough new homes every year.

But that’s not enough for a party claiming to be building for the future. With more and more of us becoming disabled, we need all the proposed 300,000 homes to be disabled-friendly. There's no point building the wrong kind of homes for Britain's future.

With 11 million disabled people living in the UK, this is a pretty big omission from a document that claims to focus on ‘clearing away the biggest barriers that are holding people, and holding Britain, back.’

If the Liberal Democrats are committed to clearing barriers, they must commit to building every one of these new homes to Lifetime Home standards. At least 30,000 (10%) should be fully wheelchair accessible.

It’s not expensive. Lifetime Homes — houses and flats that incorporate disabled-friendly elements — cost only around £1,000 more than building an ordinary home. In the long run this saves money, ensuring people can stay in their homes if their needs change and avoiding hospitalisation from falls.

This is essential. We have heard from hundreds of people that the lack of disabled-friendly homes in their communities holds them back. People like Sue, who lives in the south west of England. She became a wheelchair user following an accident in 2012 and has been trying to move house ever since.

‘I haven’t been upstairs in my own house for two years, and I have to sleep in the lounge. I have a care worker who comes in the morning and helps me get washed at the kitchen sink, but there is no privacy — the neighbours can see in to where I wash, and I just want to have a bathroom where I can do these things myself in private.

‘I’ve had over 40 falls … when moving between rooms, or transferring to the toilet. The ambulance crew who have to come and help are even telling me that I have to move, but I can’t do anything about it.’

We hope you will join us in calling on all the political parties to sit up and take notice of this issue. Sign Sue's petition for more disabled-friendly homes.

Jane Harris is managing director of campaigns and engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability. She tweets at @jane_harris77.

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