MSP Joan McAlpine this week led a debate highlighting the importance of housing provision for people with learning disabilities.
The South Scotland MSP called for a national conversation on how to provide better housing after a report cited UK Government cuts and disparity of service at local authority level as contributing factors in people’s inability to access suitable housing.
Scotland’s Housing Minister told councils they must plan to meet the needs of people with a learning disability, and pledged to strengthen links between the housing sector and organisations representing people with learning disabilities.
Commenting, the south Scotland MSP – who is Deputy Convenor of the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Learning Disabilities - said:
“I was pleased to be able to bring this subject to the chamber and I am very grateful to members of the cross party group, who themselves have a learning disability, for sharing their experiences in the lead up to this debate.
“It is welcome progress that fewer people with learning disabilities now need to live in hospitals or care homes, and options such as supported living or accommodation in adapted housing can improve quality of life immeasurably.
“Unfortunately restrictions to housing and disability benefits by the UK Government have made it incredibly difficult for a lot of people to access these facilities.”
A recent report by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability found that local authorities would sometimes rather see people who can live independently move to a care home for cost reasons, and that 698 households who were homeless or at threat of homelessness last year had ‘learning disability’ recorded as a support need.
The SNP MSP added:
“Local authorities have a very important responsibility to meet the needs of people with a learning disability.
“The Housing Minister has made it clear to councils that they must plan for these needs in Local Housing Strategies, and he has committed to working to strengthen links between the housing sector and people with learning disabilities, which is very welcome.
“The Scottish Government’s guidance to council’s on Local Housing Strategies is under review right now, and this is a real opportunity to ensure that people with learning disabilities have access to their own homes.
“Overall the direction of travel is positive. In 1998, only 600 people with a learning disability lived in suitable supported accommodation and in 2015 that figure rose to 4’622. That’s real progress to build on.”