The Learning Disability Taskforce also identified a number of barriers. It's housing subgroup found that local authority housing surveys and homelessness records were poor at identifying the needs of people with a learning disability. People who live with parents are less likely to be considered in need of housing, and a ‘chicken and egg' situation exists where housing is only offered once a support package and funding is in place.
This summer the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group published No Place Like Home, a report into barriers disabled people face when trying to move home or move from residential care to independent living. It said: "Crossing county or borough boundaries is fraught for people who need social care support."
Bureaucratic disputes can occur where local authorities and primary care trusts fail to agree their responsibilities for funding a person's care. "Such disputes could deny many thousands of disabled people the opportunity of achieving the independence they have worked towards."
In addition there are more practical barriers to finding a home, particularly for those with higher support needs or profound and multiple learning disabilities. Tenancy agreements can be difficult to understand and some cases still apply a formal disqualification for those who can't understand the application process.
The housing minister, Yvette Cooper, announced in July 2007 that the government aims to build 45,000 new social homes a year by 2010. The Learning Disability Coalition called on the government to make sure that its plans take into account people with a learning disability.
It is important that people receive housing that meets their needs. Just as individual budgets and person centred plans have given people with a learning disability greater control of their lives, so the housing sector needs to adapt to integrate people into society. "There are certainly more opportunities than there were 10 years ago. But there are also restrictions such as eligibility criteria," says Wendy Gross. "The more opportunities we bring in, the more complicated it can become."
One case in point is that of a new housing association development currently under construction in the Wirral. The shared ownership scheme will be occupied by people with a range of mild or moderate physical and learning disabilities. The unemployed people in the group have been able to take advantage of ISMI but one person, who works in a supermarket but is on a low income, will not qualify. He may be able to claim Housing Benefit to cover the rent part of his payments, but having a job means that he will not get support with his mortgage. A volunteer involved with the project says this amounts to nothing less than discrimination towards the very people with a learning disability who are doing exactly what the government wants them to do.
But as with so many elements surrounding inclusion, it all comes back to putting people at the centre. As Wendy puts it: "The key thing is to make sure that the individual has all the information about each option available to them to make an informed choice."
The government's Supporting People programme launched in April 2003. It aimed to separate the costs of housing (rent, utility bills etc - paid through Housing Benefit) with the costs of housing-related support for vulnerable people.
The government's definition of housing-related support was vague. In practice it included anything that could help people to live independently and remain in their home, such as a support worker, or advice on tenancy agreements or benefits.
Importantly, Supporting People money could not be used to pay for support provided in registered care homes. The clear aim, was to aid people with their own tenancies to successfully remain in supported housing.
A recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looked at how Supporting People has affected housing and support for people with a learning disability. It found that the number of supported living services has increased since Supporting People was introduced. However, "this has often come at the expense of abandoning the principles of supported living so that, in some cases, it is indistinguishable from residential care".
Supporting People was originally estimated to cost £750 million but ballooned to more than £1.8 billion. This was partly because of the government's failure to recognise the extent of unmet and often lifelong housing and support needs of people with a learning disability. In an effort to claw back some of that overspend, the government increased its eligibility criteria for Supporting People monies. This has meant that people have begun to receive fewer hours of support and that only those with lower support needs are likely to benefit from the programme.