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A new publication from the University of Stirling, Housing Options Scotland and Horizon Housing Association has revealed the harmful emotional and mental distresses disabled people face due to a lack of suitable housing.

The report – ‘Match Me – What works for adapted social housing lettings? Action research to enhance independent living for disabled people’ – contains an 18-month study exploring the effectiveness of allocations for accessible social housing in Scotland.

28 disabled people seeking new homes took part in the research. Of the participants in the research, the majority of them received unsuitable housing offers, or no offers at all, during the course of the study.

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Professor Isobel Anderson, who led the research team, said: “Disabled people’s extended lived experience of inappropriate housing, while waiting for a more accessible home, clearly causes considerable physical and mental harm. The key findings highlighted a proactive approach from local housing providers, yet distance between their aspirations and the experiences of disabled people.

“Disabled people and their families should have equal housing opportunities and the right to an accessible home in the community that ensures and protects their human rights. This academically rigorous report gives all stakeholders the opportunity and evidence to shape lettings policy and practice to optimise effectiveness in matching disabled people to suitable homes, as well as increasing our stock of accessible housing.”

The Match Me study also uncovered important evidence that the assessment of the suitability of a property should not only consider the access and internal features of the home, but should also look at the accessibility of the external environment and the opportunities for the applicant to maintain local support networks.

In the study, some disabled people believed that access to a garden was important for emotional and mental well-being and should be recognised by housing allocation systems.

The final report offers practical and policy recommendations to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), local authorities, Scottish Government and the Scottish Housing Regulator linked to housing allocations, adaptations, design and new supply.

Isla Gray, Interim Managing Director for Horizon Housing Association, said: “The report provides substantial insight into the experiences of disabled housing applicants and practice improvements that can address the inequality of housing opportunities and outcomes that persist for too many disabled households.

“The findings will be useful for government, the Scottish Housing Regulator and to housing and service providers – as well as for health and social care providers working with disabled people.”

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