Parliament debates appropriate housing

June 4, 2018 Blog - ENABLE Scotland Frank McKillop, Policy and Research Officer

The Scottish Parliament has debated appropriate housing for people who have learning disabilities, with MSPs from across the parties highlighting the importance of where people live to their freedom to live the life they choose.

The Members’ Business Debate was held in the Chamber on Wednesday 30 May on Motion S5M-11737 – Appropriate Housing for People with Learning Disabilities which was lodged by Deputy Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Learning Disability, Joan McAlpine MSP, following the Group’s recent discussion of the issue.

Opening the debate, Joan McAlpine MSP (SNP, South of Scotland) pointed to the success of “core and cluster” models of supported housing, while highlighting the importance of high-quality person-centred support and the guiding principle that no-one should be forced into any housing arrangement when they are able and happy to live in their own home with support.

Jeremy Balfour MSP (Conservative, Lothian) raised the risk of loneliness and isolation, and the importance of good transport links to ensure people who have learning disabilities have equal access to the work, volunteering and social opportunities that many people take for granted.

Pauline McNeill MSP (Labour, Glasgow) identified the availability of advice, advocacy and guidance as key to helping people who have learning disabilities to understand complicated housing application processes and to help them sustain their tenancy, while Graeme Dey MSP (SNP, Angus South) focused on the need for local councils to provide the facilities which their residents who have learning disabilities require, rather than people being forced to move away from their local community to find appropriate housing and care provision.

Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Learning Disability, Jackie Baillie MSP (Labour, Dumbarton), noted the central importance of striking the correct balance between the provision of first-class, sustainable social care and offering a real choice to people about where and how they want to live. She also warned against any creeping return to shared accommodation which borders on institutional.

Gillian Martin MSP (SNP, Aberdeenshire East) picked up the point about marrying sustainable, high-quality support with people’s independence, with particular emphasis on the challenges of availability of affordable and suitable accommodation for people who have learning disabilities in rural areas. Graham Simpson MSP (Conservative, Central Scotland) reiterated the shortage of suitable housing across Scotland and noted that people who have learning disabilities suffer disproportionately as a result of that under-supply.

Responding to the debate, the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart MSP, outlined the Scottish Government’s commitment that people who have learning disabilities have the right to participate as full and equal citizens, and their appreciation of the vital importance of where someone lives to how far they can exercise their rights.

He called on local councils to consider and plan ahead for the housing needs of people in their area when formulating their strategic housing investment plans, and he pledged that the Scottish Government will make additional subsidy available for appropriate housing for people who have learning disabilities if local councils approach his officials with their needs.

This very encouraging debate in Parliament came as ENABLE Scotland begins a conversation with our members who have learning disabilities, their parents and family members about Where People Live – specifically looking at how their home and living situation affects the lives of people who have a learning disability, and thinking about the kind of place they would like to be living in 20 years’ time.

As a member-led organisation, our members’ views will continue to shape and lead our policy priorities as we campaign for improvements to housing and support which will take us closer to an equal society for every person who has a learning disability.

You can read the full transcript of this debate here.

Frank McKillop is ENABLE Scotland’s Policy and Research Officer

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