Reforms ‘will drive disabled people from their homes’


The government’s package of housing benefit cuts and other housing reforms will drive many disabled people out of their accessible homes and force them further into poverty, a disabled peer has warned.

Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins told fellow peers during a Lords debate on the government’s housing policy that finding cheaper accessible accommodation for disabled people driven from their homes would be “hard, if not impossible”.

She said many would be forced to live in non-accessible accommodation, making them “more dependent on other people and less able to take advantage of employment, training or other opportunities”.

And those with a council support package would not be able to move to a new area and so would be forced “further into debt and utter misery”.

Baroness Wilkins, a Labour peer, said disabled people were twice as likely to live in social housing as non-disabled people, and were more likely than any other group to live somewhere that did not meet “decent home standards”.

She pointed to the government’s plan to cut the national affordable housing programme by 63 per cent in real terms between 2011 and 2015.

And she said the new social housing being funded by the programme would be let at 80 per cent of market rents, making it “unaffordable and driving people into poverty”.

Baroness Wilkins said the last Labour government had failed to build enough accessible houses, but the new proposals would “make things much, much worse”.

She also warned that, although anyone claiming disability living allowance (DLA) would be exempt from the government’s new benefits cap, its DLA reforms meant many current recipients would not be receiving DLA from 2013 and so would not be protected from the cap, creating “yet more poverty among disabled people”.

The Liberal Democrat disabled peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas also spoke out against her own coalition government’s policies.

She said she and Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Lords had “felt uneasy” at the housing benefit reforms, and pointed to the failure to consult on the changes, and the “precious little real evidence of the impact that the changes will have”.

She said the cuts had “the hallmarks of a panicky, Treasury-driven exercise done on the back of an envelope”.

Baroness Hanham, the Conservative junior communities and local government minister, said: “It is clear that if we do not tackle the deficit, mortgage rates will rise, making housing even less affordable than it is now.

“The interest payments on £1 trillion of debt would also suck money away from front-line services and future investment.”

And she said the government was continuing to support disabled people through the Supporting People programme and the disabled facilities grant.

8 November 2010