Lack of availability of grants for home modifications coupled with low income, lower levels of educational attainment (13.7 per cent had completed no more than primary education , compared to 4.2 per cent of the general population) and a prevalence of poverty means that those with a disability are unlikely to be able to afford adequate accommodation to support independent or assisted living. In January 2022, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage published the National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022-2027 . The stated vision for the strategy is:
To facilitate disabled people to live independently with the appropriate choices and control over where, how and with whom they live, promoting their inclusion in the community. To further enable equal access for disabled people to housing with integrated support services. This is a very welcome vision, which must be sufficiently resourced for delivery.
The new strategy is centred around six themes:
• Theme 1: Accessible Housing and Communities. This focuses on the provision of accessible housing for people living with a disability and the promotion of universal design principles.
• Theme 2: Interagency Collaboration and the Provision of Supports. This will include better collaboration between Local Authorities and the HSE, inter-departmental cooperation and information sharing between agencies.
• Theme 3: Affordability of Housing. This focuses on enabling access to affordable housing for people with disabilities.
• Theme 4: Communication and Access to Information. This aims to ensure that people with disabilities are not disadvantaged in communicating their needs and in the communication they receive.
• Theme 5: Knowledge, Capacity, and Expertise: This theme seeks to increase awareness and understanding of disability and housing within the relevant organisations, such as Local Authorities, Approved Housing Bodies, the HSE, and disability service providers. It also places an emphasis on increasing awareness regarding disabled people’s effective participation and inclusion in their communities.
• Theme 6: Strategy Alignment. This theme focuses on ensuring that all Government strategies and policies from a housing perspective promote the rights of disabled people, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
These themes are all very welcome and, if delivered simultaneously could work towards providing real, sustainable housing solutions for people with disabilities. Social Justice Ireland believes that ensuring that people with a disability can live independently where possible should be a key policy priority. Providing the resources for this, including suitable housing and housing-related supports, must be one of the foundations of such a policy.