Rachel's Law - Equal Rights for Young Adults with Disabilities
Young Adults with disabilities deserve the right to have a choice to live independently and to access work. Social Services are not meeting the ethical principles they claim to abide by and the law needs to be changed so that Post 19 year olds with disabilities have the same opportunities to rent accommodation as any other young adult.
Why this Petition matters.
In this country we talk about equality, we talk about human rights and we talk about justice for all.
However this petition is highlighting an inequality that still exists for people with disabilities. We have come a long way from the institutions of last century that many of us won’t remember but which housed people who were considered incapable, for many reasons, of living in our communities. This included those people with learning and/or physical disabilities. They were deemed by society as outcasts alongside other sections of society which included petty criminals, women who had babies outside of marriage and people who were mentally ill. Society moved from the Dickensian type of workhouses and asylums of the day to the institutions that were huge buildings housing all types of people and which were found throughout Britain in the 20th century.
Parliament is where laws can be adapted, changed, new legislation bought in to alter existing legislation and where the government can bring our country in line with the era we live in. Within the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970) is the right to provision of further housing accommodation which would have regard to the special needs of chronically sick or disabled people. We have moved forward but we still have a way to go if this law is to be recognised as a success.
Legislation since has been added to the 1970 Act. We now have the Disabled Persons Act (1986) and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), both of which are relevant to this petition. We had the Disability Rights Commission set up in 2000 to ensure that the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act was upheld. The United Nations introduced the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in 2008. This is designed to promote equal rights for people with disabilities as well as to root out discrimination.
This petition needs to get to the Houses of Parliament to be debated. At this time there is real inequality in available, adapted accommodation to rent. Disabled people are not looking for priority. They are looking for equality. They should have the same equality in rented accommodation as able bodied people. There are no government initiatives currently in place for private landlords to adapt properties for renting to people with disabilities. Currently the private sector is almost a “no go” area for people with disabilities to access rented accommodation. There is little opportunity for people with disabilities to move to another geographical area because of this lack of adapted accommodation. This takes from them the freedom of choice that is widely available for young able-bodied adults. An interesting way to see this is to look at the adverts for rented accommodation in a local paper and find out how many of those properties advertised are suitable for, as an example, a wheelchair user.
Proportionately there are not enough new builds being built with adaptations such as wet rooms in relation to the number of people with disabilities in this country. Local Authorities in every area need to look at the percentage of people with disabilities living within their authority and match that percentage appropriately. There is some discrepancy between “mobility impaired” and “wheelchair dependent” although both are branded as the same.
There is a grant called the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) available to have accommodation adapted but, in order to access this grant, an address is needed. A DFG is available for a property already inhabited by a person with a disability. This feeds into the same problem in that a person cannot leave home because they cannot access a tenancy easily unless they are prepared to pay the rent whilst the property is assessed, an Occupational Therapist’s report filed and a financial report is done on the person seeking the grant. By the time this process is completed and the necessary building work is put in place months or years have gone by where a person has paid the rent on a property that they cannot access for all that time. This could only be done if a person has access to some kind of private income to be able to afford the rent. As a private average 1 bedroom flat is approximately £650.00 per month to rent plus bills it is easy to see that this option is unaffordable for most young adults who have left school, college or university and are taking their first steps in the Adult world. Within Social housing the rented accommodation must be inhabited as part of the tenancy so this is also a problem should the property need necessary adaptations.
There is a huge injustice in this. Young people with disabilities are urged throughout their childhoods to achieve their maximum potential and this is good. Therefore, having worked so hard and achieved qualifications and grown up into adults it is also their right to be able to access living accommodation in an area of their choice and go to work, pay their taxes and their household bills, go out and mix within the community that they have chosen to live in.
This is a national problem. It affects every locality throughout Britain. This matters and the law needs to be changed to bring accessible, affordable, adapted accommodation for adults with disabilities in line with the laws already in existence so that equality is practised in reality instead of theory. Please take a moment to look at your area and you will soon see the imbalance.
Please then take a moment to sign this petition so that, together, we can call upon the government to look at this issue with a view to redress the inequality that exists in this country and needs to be changed for the thousands of young adults with disabilities who are being discriminated in this area of rented housing.
The word equality means “Condition of being equal; equal footing” (The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary).
Young people with a disability, or disabilities, are not looking to be priority in housing. They are looking for equality. What does this mean?
An example of this would be. In general terms if a person is wheelchair dependant this means that they are unable to walk at all independently. In order to get around in a flat a wheelchair user needs to have an adapted flat. Necessary adaptations for a wheelchair user are widened door frames including the front door because a wheelchair is wider than a person. There cannot be any stairs because a wheelchair cannot negotiate steps. This could mean that the outside may need to be ramped to the front door. A wet room is needed instead of a bathroom because a wheelchair user cannot weight bear so cannot get in or out of a bath and a shower chair is needed because a wheelchair user cannot stand by themselves in a shower. Access into the shower needs to be flat and there needs to be a big enough “turning circle” for the navigation of the wheelchair. The sink needs to be specific to a wheelchair user so that they can get under the sink with their chair. Grab bars are needed to be both sides of the loo. Taps may need to be specialist taps. Switches and sockets need to be in easy reach. Cupboards in the kitchen need to be adjustable so a wheelchair user can access them. Work tops need to be slightly lower and access to a sink means that the cupboard under the sink needs to be missing and the sink protected from heat so that a wheelchair user doesn’t burn their legs when the sink is full of hot water. An oven and hob needs to be at wheelchair height. Corridors need to be wide enough for a wheelchair to be able to get through. A hoist may be needed to transfer a wheelchair user from the chair to, for example , a bed. Add into that things such as easy access to a fuse box, necessary aids to use to pick things up and a picture develops of a different type of flat that is needed when a person is wheelchair dependent.
That is just the beginning. You then have to get an Occupational Therapists assessment to see if they think the flat is suitable for adaptations, then a means test to see how much you have to contribute towards the adaptations and after that plans have to be drawn up by an architect before it is put out to tender. At that point a builder is chosen, a date given and then the work can be done. All of this can take between 9 months and 5 years!!
Every person is different and this applies to a wheelchair dependent person. Some may have little upper body movement, some may have difficulty with hand and/or arm movement, some may have spinal rods making trunk movement limited and some may have some type of paralysis. The list is exhaustive but the principle is the same. Each person counts and should be looked at as an individual.
A lot of young people with disabilities want to live independently and to access work but they need the infra-structure to enable them to do these things. This petition is not to make them “priority” but to make them “equal”. It is not about taking away from people who have no disability. It’s about putting the necessary things in place so that young adults with disabilities can have as fulfilled a life as young adults without a disability.