Accessible housing for people with disabilities is vital to living in the community and remaining independent. However, there is a lack of supply and availability of appropriate accessible housing across all counties. Additionally, inadequate funding for house adaptation schemes leave people with disabilities trapped in inaccessible homes. IWA has prioritised the housing needs of people with disabilities as a basic requirement to social inclusion and maintaining independence.
Disability Person’s Grant / Housing Adaptation Grant
The Disabled Person’s Grant (DPG) was recently replaced by the Housing Adaptation Grant for people with a disability. IWA welcomed the new Housing Adaptation Grant which after considerable lobbying has become index-linked. However, the introduction of a means test and the cut off income limit of €30,000, for eligibility to possibly receive a full grant, often leaves people with a considerable shortfall to meet.
This can clearly be illustrated by the extensive costs of an adaptation undertaken by many wheelchair users; a bedroom/bathroom extension with some internal reorganisation would cost in the region of €60,000 to € 70,000. Finding the additional funding to carry out these essential home adaptations often becomes impossible or places considerable financial burden on individuals or families. As a result many people with disabilities continue to be trapped in unsuitable, inaccessible homes.
Following a prolonged period of review of the various housing grant aided schemes operated by Local Authorities, on 2nd Oct ’07 Mr. Batt O’Keeffe, T.D., Minister for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, announced the implementation of a revised and different package of grant aid. This new package of grant aid is designed to assist people with disability and/or mobility impairment and older people to provide for their accommodation needs.
Three revised grant schemes have been introduced:
- Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability,
which will assist with the provision/adaptation of accommodation to meet the needs of people with disability and/or mobility impairment. Types of aided work grants include: the provision of access ramps, downstairs toilet facilities, stair-lifts, accessible showers, adaptations to facilitate wheelchair access, extensions, etc;
The maximum grant available will be €30,000, which may cover up to 95% of the cost of works. Prioritisation of eligibility will be on the basis of medical and financial need with 95% of the approved cost of work available to those with annual household incomes of less than €30,000, tapering to 30% for those with annual household incomes of €54,001 to €65,000;
The Housing Adaptation Grant for New Houses for People with a Disability will be increased to €14,500.
- Mobility Aids Housing Grant Scheme,
which will fast track grant aid to address mobility problems primarily associated with ageing. This scheme will fast track grant aid to cover a basic suite of works to address mobility problems, primarily but not exclusively, associated with ageing. Types of work which will be grant aided include: the provision of grab-rails, access ramps, level access showers, stair-lifts, etc.
The maximum grant of €6,000, which may cover 100% of the cost of works, will be available to people with annual household incomes of up to €30,000.
- Housing Aid for Older People,
which will provide targeted support to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. This revised scheme amalgamates the provisions of the existing Essential Repairs Grant and the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly schemes, with the aim of making habitable the homes of older people. The types of works which will be grant aided include structural repairs or improvements, re-wiring, repairs to/replacement of windows and doors, the provision of water, sanitary services, heating, cleaning, painting etc.
The maximum grant available will be €10,500, which may cover 100% of the cost of works. Prioritisation of eligibility will be on the basis of financial need with 100% of the approved cost of works available to those with annual household incomes of less than €30,000, tapering to 30% for those with annual household incomes of €54,001 to €65,000.
The Irish Wheelchair Association welcomes the introduction of equity and consistency in the administration of these grants across all Local Authorities and also the commitment by the Department to annually increase maximum grant levels in line with wage inflation. However as the IWA has consistently campaigned for 100% grant funding for essential adaptation work, the continuation of a cap (or grant limit), albeit of €30,000.00 combined with the introduction of a means test is of significant concern to the Association. People with disabilities have to undertake considerable adaptation and extension to their homes at critical life stages often at a time when personal income has been reduced dramatically and future income remains uncertain. Adaptations are not lifestyle choices but basic necessities. The grant cap itself and then combined with the means test will continue to result in huge balances, of potentially up to €40 or €50,000.00, needing to be made up in order to provide a very basic level of personal facilities in one’s home.
Affordable and social housing
IWA’s recent Election Manifesto 2007 called on the department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government to make a set percentage of houses built under the affordable and social housing schemes fully accessible for disabled people as residents.
In IWA’s Pre Budget Submission 07 proposal called for direct increased funding to be allocated to the Local Authorities in order to respond to the demand for the Housing Adaptation Grant. IWA in partnership with other disability organisations continue to engage with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the housing needs of people with disabilities are achieved and that compliance with wheelchair accessible design specifications are adopted in all built environments.
The anticipated 2nd stage review of Part M by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government should be published in draft format in early 2008. This will be followed by a consultation process before the final review is enacted. IWA will actively engage in the consultation process and review the draft document to ensure that the amended Part M will be effective in legislating for equal access.
A working group for the new Housing Strategy for people with disabilities was formed in November 2007. This group has been established under the auspices of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. A representative from IWA is part of this group representing the Not for Profit Organisation, of which IWA is a member. IWA waits in expectation for future developments in the housing needs of people with disabilities being met.
DFI in partnership with Citizens Information Board have published a report on housing which has been written from the perspective and experiences of people with disabilities in trying to access housing provisions. Many IWA members and staff contributed to this research.
In January 2008 the Housing Needs Assessment will commence. This process is carried out every three years by local County Councils. The assessment requires each County Council to detail the numbers of people and different household types on the local social Housing Lists. These figures inform the local social house building programme. Traditionally, the housing needs of people with disabilities are hugely under represented on Housing Lists and consequently under represented in social house building programmes.
It is important to Sign onto the local social Housing List before the end of March ’08 if you require housing.
People with disabilities can ensure that their housing needs are included in local plans by signing onto the local social Housing List before the end of March ’08, which is the cut off point for this current Housing Needs Assessment. Of course people can sign onto Housing Lists after the end of March, the reason to sign on by that date is to have the housing needs of people with disabilities show in the ’08 Housing Statistic figures.