No place like home – accessible housing

Independent living might sound like a dream, but finding housing that suits your individual needs can be a challenge. It can seem like an endless hunt for the right home, but the path to living independently might not be as winding as you think.

Making the decision to live independently is a huge achievement, but with so much to consider on top of finding a place you actually want to live in, it can be a confusing and stressful time. You might not know where to start, where to look or what help and assistance is available for you.

PROPERTY SEARCH

Adapting a property to suit your requirements is an important aspect of independent living. Whether your needs have changed, or your property is no longer accessible, the first step towards finding your new pad is knowing where to look for support. There are organisations set up that help you search for accessible housing in your area or provide purpose built properties.

If you want to move, Link Housing allows you to search through shared, rented, private and brand new accessible housing in your area. You can register with your local authority to be placed in accessible housing, though this can mean a long wait to move out.

To apply go to your local authority’s website or call your local housing association, you can find these on the government website using your postcode. You will be added to the Accessible Housing Register which matches you to a suitable property and landlord. You can register with more than one authority at once and don’t have to be currently living in the area.

ADAPTING A HOME

If you’ve fallen in love with a property, but it doesn’t meet your requirements, it might be possible to make adaptations. This can take the pressure off the process of finding a suitable accessible property or might not require you to move at all. If you decide to take this route, it’s important to factor the costs of adaptations into your initial budget.

Depending on what you’re changing, this can range from a few hundred to thousands of pounds. Shop around and research exactly what you need before committing to a project. If you rent from the council, it’s obliged to make any adaptations free of charge, but if you rent privately or own your home, grants are sometimes funded by your local council through application.

If you’re renting privately and the landlord won’t let you permanently change a property, you can carry out temporary adaptations to your home. This might include adding bars and handles to the side of the bath, putting longer chords on light switches or putting a free-standing bath seat into your walk-in shower.

YOUR REQUIREMENTS

When searching for accessible housing, make sure you take into account all of the features you require. Even the smallest things matter and you shouldn’t settle for less than everything you need. Making a list of what you require in a property can make your search easier and can help when speaking to your local authority or estate agent.

A good way to think about what you require is to go around your current home and mark down what you already use alongside what you don’t have, but need. It’s important to like the property, too. Having special requirements shouldn’t mean you settle for a house you don’t like, even if it does meet them all. Make a list of general features you want in a house from the kitchen, patio, or tall windows you’ve daydreaming about, and not just what you require.

FUNDING

Adaptations can all add up and put pressure on your finances, but you could be entitled to help with taxes and benefits that will take some of the pressure off the costs of your own home. It’s possible to get a discount on your council tax, or an exemption if you have a disability. You may also be eligible for housing benefits to help with rent costs.

Funding is also available to help cover the cost of adaptations. If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you could be eligible for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) available through your local council. The DFG is provided by the government and can help with adaptations to your home whether it’s privately owned or rented.

Widening doors, installing ramps and adding stairlifts are just a few things that the grant helps cover. Direct payments are available if you wish to source your own care instead of having it provided by your local authority, but they can also be used for other aspects of advancing your care such as features in your home. If you want to receive direct payments you can work with your local authority to set up a direct payment agreement detailing what the money will be used for.

To find out more about DFG or direct payments talk to your social worker or the local authority. There is another option available to you: you can also apply to borrow equipment from the NHS or your local authority to allow you to live independently. The process begins with an assessment to establish your needs, which will take into account your current living situation, your disability and what facilities or care you already have.

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