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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Disabled people's housing crisis — a case study

Last month this blog republished an article from the Open Democracy website about the housing crisis facing disabled people. Today in Swheatie's inbox an email from the Children's Society serves as a classic case study into how Right to Buy legislation and the privatisation of formerly common ownership housing — council housing and social housing — emphasises the fact that the economic, physical and social barriers that turn a person's impairment into a disability (Social Model of Disability) are made worse under capitalism. (Capitalism tends traditionally to only regard people as producers or consumers, though maybe these days it values investors more — however unfairly or illegally their capital is generated?) As stated in Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia:
The social model of disability is a reaction to the dominant medical model of disability which in itself is a functional analysis of the body as machine to be fixed in order to conform with normative values.[1] The social model of disability identifies systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) that mean society is the main contributory factor in disabling people. While physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological variations may cause individual functional limitation or impairments, these do not have to lead to disability unless society fails to take account of and include people regardless of their individual differences. The origins of the approach can be traced to the 1960s; the specific term emerged from the United Kingdom in the 1980s.
The message in my inbox was headed, 'My blind granddaughter needs a place to live', and heralded a Care2 petition.

Care2 Petitions Action Alert
action alert!
When my little granddaughter Amelia was 11 weeks old, we found out she was blind. She and her family need to find a new place to live very soon so she can develop to her full potential.
Please sign the petition today!
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Dear [Swheatie],
We found out my little granddaughter, Amelia, was blind when she was just a young baby and was not looking at things. She is a year old now and making progress every day. We want to do everything we can to help her develop to her full potential. That's why Amelia and her family urgently need to move into a new house as soon as possible.

Professionals in the vision impairment team as well as health care professionals have told us that Amelia's current home is unfit for a blind baby. Because the house is privately rented, Amelia's parents are not allowed to make the kinds of adaptations that would help her so much.

The house has massive steps made of Yorkshire stone that are impossible to adapt to meet the legal requirements so a blind child could go up and down them safely and learn about the outside. The upstairs banister has gaps that Amelia could fall through. The window sills have sharp edges, not curved ones that would be far safer as Amelia learns to explore her surroundings. The floors must be replaced with laminated ones so it would be far less dangerous for Amelia to move about in her walker.
There are so many little things that need to be done to create a home that is safe for Amelia!

But my daughter, Amelia's mother, cannot make a single one of these changes without permission, which takes weeks and weeks to get. Amelia can only benefit from a council house or housing association house as it would be possible to have adaptations done quickly.

Health professionals and a local councillor support our requests for a new house for Amelia. But North Yorkshire Homechoice says Amelia's family does not qualify for urgent rehousing because they already have a home. They do not understand how inappropriate, and unsafe, Amelia's present home is for her and why she so desperately needs to move into a new one. Once Amelia maps out the house where she currently lives, it will be tremendously difficult for her to adjust to live elsewhere.

If Amelia's parent were given a new home by one of the housing associations in our area, my little granddaughter's quality of life would vastly improve, with huge ramifications for her future. Tell North Yorkshire Homechoice and Craven District Council to provide Amelia and her family with a new home immediately!
Thank you for taking action,

Lianna T.
Care2 Member

At the root of this problem is a crisis in disabled people's housing exacerbated by Right to Buy legislation, government non-investment in social housing, and an out-of-democratic control global housing market. This has been referred to already on the Kilburn Unemployed blog and is often spoken of at public meetings by Revd Paul Nicolson, who is now Chairperson of Taxpayers Against Poverty. See his September 2012 blog piece, "It's the land economy stupid."

Councils and judges too often talk about 'proportionality' in terms of the needs of individuals when housing waiting lists are huge. Yet disability equality trainer Michèle Taylor points out that the word 'requirement' is more empowering than 'need': 'requirement' connotes rights and responsibilities.

Will you, like me, sign this Care2 Petition?

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