Marking Disability Awareness Day

Posted on the 14th July 2022

It’s Disability Awareness Day on Sunday. How do we address the housing needs of our disabled customers? We spoke to Paradigm’s Disabled Facilities Officer, John Smith, to find out.

A committed Paradigm veteran of 14 years and counting, John works with our disabled customers and their families to provide information about services, represent them to their local council, liaise with healthcare professionals and co-ordinate adaptation work. We asked him to tell us a bit about his job… Photo of Disabled Facilities Officer, John Smith

Why is it so important to consider the housing needs of disabled people?

More than one in five of us will be affected by disability at some point in our lives. Around 10% of Paradigm customer households have someone living with a disability. Disability is one of the nine “protected characteristics” championed by the Equality Act 2010. Investment in people with disabilities is therefore not only a legal and moral obligation, but very much an investment in our common future.

How do we consider disabled people when building new homes?

The building of new homes in the UK is governed by Part M of the Building Regulations and BS8300: legal requirements which ensure that all new buildings are accessible to disabled people and help create an inclusive environment. And local authority partners require residential developments to meet Lifetime Homes standards and accommodate wheelchair users (for example Accessible Hillingdon).

What about older homes?

As a landlord, we have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments for our tenants living in older houses which were not built to modern accessibility standards or which require small changes to improve their residents’ quality of life. The Paradigm team carries out around 400 “minor adaptations” a year: small projects costing up to £1,500 which can make all the difference to someone living with a disability (examples include grab handles, banisters, lever taps, and smoke alarms).

More complicated, expensive adjustments – “major adaptations” – require assessment on a case-by-case basis by the local authority. The most requested installations are stairlifts, wet rooms and level-access showers. Customers can apply to their council for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), which covers work up to £30,000. Around 100 of these projects are carried out in Paradigm homes each year, and equipment installed by the DFG scheme, such as stairlifts, is serviced and maintained by Paradigm’s Compliance team.

What if disabled people require a different home?

When properties cannot be adapted or are located where they cannot be accessed regardless of adaptations to them, Paradigm works with residents and local authorities to secure alternative accommodation. Rehousing can be complex because the right property can be hard to find in the right size and the right place, so housing, health and social services must work closely together. Paradigm operates a Right Person Right Home scheme, which provides grants of up to £2,000 to residents moving to properties that are more suitable – and that can include accessible homes for disabled people.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Definitely meeting customers for the first time, breaking the ice and having a chat about how they are getting on, where they come from, and what they are hoping for in the future. It is essential to consider the customer’s perspective when thinking about how to support them.  I almost always ask where they want to be at in 5 years’ time and then talk towards that.

Click here to find out more about Paradigm’s Aids and Adaptations

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