Tens of thousands of people with learning difficulties face a future of being unable to live independent lives as councils increasingly struggle to meet their housing needs, a leading charity has said.
Mencap said new research showed councils were increasingly struggling to meet the housing needs of people with learning disabilities, but that based on current housing trends and population growth, England and Wales were predicted to need an additional 19,860 registered care places and at least 14,222 additional supported accommodation places over the next 15 years.
It said that research spanning 174 local authorities in both nations showed that finance was the biggest issue facing councils’ housing services, with additional uncertainty surrounding the impact of the government’s Welfare Reform Bill.
National campaigns manager Dan Scorer said people with learning disabilities had a right to be able to live as independently as possible.
“The proposed government changes to housing benefit and supported housing are putting additional pressure on the ability of local authorities to find effective solutions to the housing needs of people with a learning disability as well as leaving people uncertain about their future,” he said.
“It is essential that they do not lose out in these reforms.
“We know that the vast majority of people with a learning disability want to have the opportunity to live more independently.
“But without urgent action from central government and local authorities it is doubtful that this aspiration will be realised, and more people with a learning disability may end up living with their parents into old age, who could live independently”.
Eighty two percent of the councils that responded to Mencap’s survey said there was a shortage of housing for adults with learning disabilities, while some 67% said that it had become more difficult to meet the housing needs of such adults over the past 12 months.
David Rogers (Lib Dem), chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said councils understood the importance of housing in meeting the independent-living needs of people with learning difficulties.
“We recognise that we must integrate the housing and social care agendas at national and local level to ensure that we can deliver housing that meets the diverse needs of our vulnerable and aging population.
“In a period of economic austerity, we believe addressing the housing needs of vulnerable people can substantially reduce demand for, and the cost of, health and social care, and enhance quality of life
“What is needed is a change of ethos, a shift of emphasis from providing residential care towards prolonging independence through better public health, leisure and transport schemes, more adaptable housing, new technologies and neighbourhood projects.”