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Only 16% of people with a learning disability have had a first home – this must change

20/06/2014

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Everyone should be able to live independently in a home of their choice but for people with a learning disability, this can feel out of reach.

There are not enough supported living opportunities, and those that do exist may be far from friends and family.



Golden Lane Housing supports people with a learning disability to realise their dream of living independently. Only 16% of people with a learning disability currently live by themselves, yet many more can and do want to.

Alastair Graham, director of Golden Lane Housing explains, “My first home was a bedsit on the third floor of a house in Tooting. There was no kitchen and I had to wash up my dishes in the bathroom. I cooked on a baby belling in the corner and left my milk on the window ledge because of the lack of a fridge. But at least it was my own tenancy and gave me some independence.

Only 16% of people with a learning disability live in supported housing in the community – ie live where most of the rest of us take for granted. Most live with Mum and Dad, who often worry about what will happen in the future when they’re no longer around to look after their loved ones, or in large institutions often far away from their home area.

Golden Lane Housing gives hope to people with a learning disability and their families. Since Mencap established us in 1998, we’ve gradually grown so that we now have over 1,300 tenants in a wide range of different housing across the country. When we couldn’t get grants anymore, we had to be innovative so we could still provide much needed housing. We set up Great Tenants, where we lease housing from head landlords and sub-let it to people with a learning disability. We also developed a scheme with the Mencap Trust Company where you can leave a property in trust for a relative with a learning disability and we are the landlord.

And last year we launched a hugely successful bond issue which raised £10m. We’ve now invested all of this money in buying 27 properties all over the country and adapting them so they’re just right for the tenants. These properties are now home to 99 tenants all supported by Mencap. I’ve met a number of them and it’s humbling to see their pride in their new home and their increasing confidence, participation and independence. People like Bryan, Danny, Ryan and James who I met at their new home in Aylesbury earlier this month – this was at the opening of the last of the properties we bought using the 2013 bond money.

But we need to do so much more. The Government got to hear about our bond scheme and asked us for some ideas for how it could be scaled up to provide part of the solution to the 3,200 people currently in Assessment and Treatment Units. We’ve offered our ideas and continue to meet with Ministers, officials and anyone else who might be able to help. I’m hoping that we will be able to substantially increase from 16% the percentage of people with a learning disability living in community based, supported housing. But hopefully not in a bedsit in Tooting.”

Share your stories with Mencap

Are you inspired by Alastair’s story about the challenges people with a learning disability face moving into their own place for the first time? Have you had a similar experience? What challenges did you face to live independently? Were you excited about having your own home? If so, Mencap would like to hear from you! Share your stories with Mencap below.

To find out more information about Learning Disability Week 2014 visit Mencap’s website and follow Mencap and Golden Lane Housing on Twitter and share your stories using the hashtag #LDWeek14