‘Why social workers should care about home ownership for disabled people’

Shared home ownership helps reduce social care costs and improves independence for disabled people, but access to it is at risk

By Tim Cooper

It is understandable that home ownership is not at the top of most social care professionals’ lengthy priority lists when working with their disabled clients.
But as a report published last week confirms, supporting disabled people to explore and use existing specialist shared ownership schemes can have a dramatic impact on their well-being – but this option is at risk of being reduced.
Space to Live, published by housing, care and employment support provider Advance and Disability Rights UK, urges disabled people, and professionals, to use the existing shared ownership schemes and pressure the Homes and Community Agency to continue to funding them beyond 2015.
Schemes such as HOLD (Home Ownership for people with Long-term Disabilities) give disabled people an opportunity to own their home – and develop independence, security and roots.

Shared ownership reduces social care costs

But it also makes financial sense for the public sector to support disabled people into shared ownership. In these straitened economic times when services are being cut, reducing the use of respite or residential care is welcome; and there’s evidence that people who are shared owners reduce the level of social care and NHS services they need.
Social care professionals can act as a vital catalyst – informing and supporting people through an inevitably cumbersome application process. And let’s not forget the requirements to look afresh at people who have been placed out of area; for some disabled people, returning them to their community via a shared ownership route could solve a number of problems and improve life options in one go.
Programmes such as HOLD are a cost-effective, personalised response to the health, housing and support needs of disabled people.
Since 1998, more than 1,600 disabled people have bought a stake in a home they have chosen with the help of payments to cover the mortgage interest from a specialist scheme such as HOLD. If we’re truly committed to the personalisation agenda, that figure should be rising steadily.

Future funding at risk

However, the number of successful new applications has dwindled to a few dozen in recent years, primarily because the rules keep being changed.
The limited grant from the Homes and Communities Agency may also be under threat as the government develops funding plans for housing post-2015. Government is also considering a response to a consultation on the future of Support for Mortgage Interest – the key plank in schemes such as HOLD.
Social care professionals and those they work for should hope HOLD continues in the future – or both people with long-term disabilities and public service budgets will lose out.
Tim Cooper is the chief executive of Advance

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