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Unclear proposals for housing for disabled people

The Government has formally launched its Implementation Plan for the National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022-2027, which sets no specific targets for housing for disabled people.

Published in June 2023, the Implementation Plan for the National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022-2027 states that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will review housing delivery action plans (HDAPs) in order to promote “a whole of community approach to housing for disabled people when planning the provision of housing, including infrastructure, transport, education, and employment”.

The strategy is set out under six themes and each theme has a set of outcomes and initial actions. The National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022-2027 required that an implementation plan be prepared. The Department says that the implementation plan builds on the outcomes and actions of the strategy.

The implementation plan covers 27 outcomes, each of which has a set of key actions that will be required to deliver it, with 107 actions overall. Responsibility has been assigned to a lead organisation, with other partners identified. Timelines and key performance indicators (KPIs) are also set. The implementation plan outlines six key themes, accompanied by a desired outcome.

The first theme is for an increase in the accessibility of housing and communities for disabled people. The desired outcome, according to the implementation plan, is for an “increase in the provision of accessible housing for disabled people by the setting of local, need-related targets for all social housing providers using a universal design approach, as appropriate”. To achieve this, the Department states that it will review housing delivery action plans (HDAPs) and ensure targets for delivery of housing for disabled people are being met. Where these targets are not being met, the Department outlines a need to ensure that “the HDAPs are revised to meet that target within the lifetime of the HDAP”.

The second theme outlined in the implementation plan is the need for increased interagency collaboration and the increased provision of supports for disabled people. The desired outcome, according to the implementation plan document is that disabled people have a clear pathway to accessing housing and support services. To enable this, each local authority will nominate a representative from its housing department to “work closely with a person nominated by each community healthcare organisation (CHO) mental health and disability services” to ensure that housing and support services are “aligned as appropriate and to develop an early notification system so that housing will be available and support applications are processed accordingly”.

The third theme is a general vision for the increased affordability of housing, in which disabled people have access to affordable housing schemes “including to purchase a home or rent at an affordable price”. Crucial to this is the Government’s cost rental scheme, according to the implementation plan, although its targets are vague in that they focus on measures such as “[examining] ways to increase the accessibility of the cost rental scheme for disabled people” and to “prepare and circulate information on cost rental in accessible formats and ensure that access to schemes or application processes are in an accessible format”.

On the fourth theme of communication and access to information, the implementation plan outlines the objective of ensuring that a “proactive and consistent approach” is “taken by agencies in the provision of information which is coordinated by The Housing Agency”. The document further states the aim of ensuring that there is an “increase in the communication between state agencies and disabled people regarding their housing opportunities both from a housing and support perspective”.

The fifth theme focuses on knowledge, capacity, and expertise, outlining the desired outcome of ensuring that local authorities, the HSE, and approved housing bodies have “the knowledge base, expertise, and capacity to provide services and relevant information to disabled people”. The Department further states the importance of ensuring that “knowledge and expertise regarding disability issues are integrated into all relevant organisations” as well as ensuring that there is “an understanding of each other’s roles among the various stakeholders which results in an improved service to disabled people”.

The sixth and final theme is around ensuring that there is alignment on policies for disabled people between the Government’s numerous ongoing housing policies, with the Department outlining the goal of ensuring that the strategy is underpinned by Housing for All and the new Local Delivery Action Plans established under its framework.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has stated that it will publish a progress report on the implementation plan by Q4 2024. However, given the vague metrics through which success can be measured, what this progress report will entail remains unclear.