There are a variety of disabilities that might require people to seek supported housing. Consequently, this type of supported housing needs to reflect a diversity of needs. In many cases, supported housing for those with disabilities is built around a person, rather than trying to fit a person into an existing property setup. Like other types of supported housing, demand is rising. It’s currently estimated there are approximately 22,000 specialised supported housing properties, by 2027, it’s possible demand will require 37,000 such properties.
There is little doubt that specialised supported housing for people with disabilities has a markedly positive effect on their lives. Mencap’s report on SSH goes into detail:
“This research confirms that living independently with support in the community can have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing. Living in a SSH provision has led to improvements in people’s quality of life such as improvements to their living space and adaptations, greater involvement in the local community, better health and an improved social life. SSH provision offers this option to those with often complex needs who might otherwise have ended up in residential care or have come out of NHS provisions such as ‘secure’ accommodation.”
Yet as we’ve seen with our other posts on supported housing types, there are a variety of needs to be catered for.
Some 78% of SSH tenants suffer from a learning or mental disability like autism. Of the people currently living in SSH, more than half require round-the-clock care (or at least its availability). In many cases, this is provided by existing caregivers, such as family members. The accommodation provided is designed to encourage socialising where possible, with several bedrooms and living quarters built around common areas.
For people with existing physical disabilities, it can be a case of asking your local council for help finding a property. It’s likely that there are other properties in your area that have already been adapted for people with disabilities. This can be broader adaptations, like ramps for wheelchairs. However, since the property was adapted for someone’s specific needs, there may or may not be a variety of other changes.
If no adapted properties are available or suitable to your needs, the local council may offer a housing grant so that your existing home can be altered. It may be that this is a small endeavour, installing handles, ramps, and alarms to enable people with disabilities to continue to live independently. On the other hand, larger changes may be required, possibly even structural changes.
The models in place for SSH aren’t perfect, and current designs aren’t working for everyone. In Christine Bigby’s paper Conundrums of supported living: The experiences of people with intellectual disability, she noted that SSH failed to address several issues:
“Although participants experienced greater choice and control over their everyday lives, they did not feel they controlled the way support was provided and experienced restrictions on lifestyle associated with low income. Despite their use of community places and varied social connections to family, friends, and acquaintances, most experienced loneliness.”
Likewise, there has been some concern in government that the current scheme of SSH isn’t working as intended. Since many people with high-care needs have their rents partially or even fully subsidised, developers are treating it as a chance to cash in, knowing that rents are paid regardless of tenant employment status or finances.