In the current climate of inclusion and choice for people with a learning disability, there is one area that lags well behind. And it’s a big one. Most adults with a learning disability still do not get a choice of where they live or who they live with.
Key to the door
The Government’s survey Adults with learning difficulties in England 2003/04 found that most adults with a learning disability live with their parents or other relatives. So why, in an age of individual budgets and the continued promotion of independence, is this the case?
Compared to the rest of the population, very few people with a learning disability live in their own home or have their own tenancy agreement.
Andrew Young is business development manager for Housing Options, an organisation that gives independent advice to people with a learning disability. “There's huge disparity out there of the type of accommodation people with a learning disability have compared to the rest of the public,” he says.
For the general population eight out of ten either own their own home or rent privately and two in ten live in social housing. “Compare that to people with a learning disability," says Andrew. “Less than two in ten either own their own home or have a tenancy of their own. About half of adults with a learning disability live with their parents.”
Recent headlines “Victim's torture by gang ended in viaduct death fall” – The Guardian and “Tortured, drugged and murdered for fun” – Daily Telegraph, have highlighted the vulnerability of some people with a learning disability living in the community, even with support.
“I think many parents are rightly protective,” says Wendy Gross, information manager for the National Centre for Independent Living. “Moving out of home is a risk that all young people have to take when going out into the big wide world, but for people with a learning disability, if they're not given the right level of support then they can be at higher risk.”
This climate of fear, coupled with any poor experiences that parents may have had with social services, is one that is unlikely to be challenged by cash-strapped local authorities. So long as parents are looking after their adult children they save on expensive support packages.
Valuing People said that “Housing can be the key to achieving social inclusion.” With community-based housing options come a variety of benefits including greater personal choice, participation in community life and better access to health care.
Clearly barriers exist which are preventing people from living as they choose. “I think that the issues are twofold,” says Mark McGoogan, head of Golden Lane Housing. “It's hard enough getting a house due to affordability and benefit issues that apply to everyone. Then there is the fact that there is no formal assistance structure for people with a disability.”
This article appeared in the September/October 07 issue of Viewpoint