Source: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
CPAG is proud to support Disability Connect and the Community Housing Collective in this important new research into the unmet housing needs of people with disabilities and their whānau.
Seeking to amplify the voices of those living with disabilities, this report highlights some of the many challenges people with disabilities and their whānau face in accessing suitable and stable housing. More broadly, it highlights the social marginalisation of those with disabilities and the lack of consideration given to their needs at government level. In the words of authors Colleen Brown and Alan Johnson:
“It is probably the definition of marginalisation that you and your loved ones are so unimportant that your basic needs are not fully met and your frustration, anger and hurt are not heard. These are the experiences emerging from some of this research. This lack of agency from people with disabilities reflects an absence of systemic and comprehensive policies at government level.”
Data were collected through online surveys and face-to-face interviews and hui, learning from the perspectives of those living with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions, as well as their parents and caregivers.
People living with disabilities have poorer housing than their non-disabled counterparts. They are more likely to rent their home, have poor security of tenure, and spend a higher proportion of their income on housing than their non-disabled counterparts.
Of particular concern to CPAG, these challenges have significant implications for children; both those who themselves experience disability, or who live with a disabled household member.
This research found that one in five survey respondents were unhappy with their housing, a rate that is comparable to the rate of material hardship for children with disabilities, and those living with a disabled household member.
Dark, damp houses can affect people with disabilities more than others, making unsuitable housing conditions of particular concern for families with disabled children:
“Jana needs sunlight as she has significant Vitamin D deficiencies, but due to her home’s steep site she cannot be taken outside to sit in the sun.”
Living with disabilities can mean having different housing requirements. 100% of new public housing needs to use universal building principles like in other jurisdictions, so New Zealand will have homes and communities suitable for all disabled people:
“Jana needs a lot of equipment. As the house is small, the only place to store them is the open external garage which is no good in the rain.”
As the report highlights, these housing challenges stem in part from a lack of centralized data collection and planning for the needs of people with disabilities and their whānau, and an inadequate system of government support that is difficult to navigate and access:
“Jana’s Mum is pregnant with their third child and is on medication for depression. Repair work didn’t find or remedy the original water-related issue with the house. Trying to work with a government agency has been frustrating and has affected the family’s mental health and well-being.”
The link between poverty and disability in Aotearoa is unacceptable and preventable. Government must listen and respond to the needs and concerns of those living with disabilities and their whānau.
Among the recommendations of this report, the authors call for improved data collection and planning for the housing and care needs of those with disabilities, ensuring information is freely available so that those with disabilities and their whānau can make informed choices, and framing the housing needs of disabled people as an issue of rights, rather than a social or health need.