Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill: consultation

We are committed to protecting, respecting and championing the rights of people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people. This consultation on proposals for a Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill seeks the views of everyone on how we can do this.

Section 4: Housing and Independent Living

What we heard

Appropriate housing for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities is crucial in helping them to live safe and independent lives. Whilst most people live in mainstream housing, for some people accessible or supported housing will be the most appropriate option.

Unsuitable housing can have a negative impact on neurodivergent people, people with learning disabilities, their families and their carers, including impacting on mobility, mental health, social isolation and a lack of employment opportunities.

Appropriate housing is therefore an essential requirement of independent living. It supports health and wellbeing allowing neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities to live safely, offering greater choice and control over their lives. It can consequently save on health and social care costs in the future, and so it is thought to be better to build accessible housing from the outset rather than having to make adaptations at a later stage.

People with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people tell us that they want to be treated with dignity and respect by services, including in relation to housing.[166] They say that good-quality and timely housing advice and support services are extremely important in supporting them to live independently in a home of their choice within their community.

We know that there is currently only a small amount of specialist supported housing available, which makes up 1% of total housing stock with the vast majority of it in the social rented sector, which limits choice.[167]

In 2018, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission produced a report,[168] examining whether the availability of accessible housing, and the support services associated with it, fulfilled disabled people's rights to independent living. The Inquiry found that, at that time, many disabled people lived in homes that did not meet their requirements. It called for urgent action to ensure that future housing supply is accessible for everyone.

The report highlighted that, at that time, 61,000 people needed adaptations to their home, 1% were fully accessible for wheelchair users, and 10,000 people were on housing waiting lists.

In particular, the report noted that concerns were raised that people with learning disabilities are not always able to exercise choice and control over who they live with, who can visit and when. This was for a range of reasons such as:

  • the emphasis on the online application process
  • lack of support from housing providers, such as a reluctance to provide information in accessible formats, such as easy read
  • lack of specificity in advertisements for accessible properties
  • lack of assistance with applications from housing provider

The report called for local authorities to ensure that people with learning disabilities have access to good-quality, accessible advice and advocacy when they are discussing housing options, to help them navigate complex systems.

The report also noted evidence that housing professionals in local authorities were at that time not sufficiently aware of the adaptations that people with sensory impairments, learning disabilities or autism might require – and that the focus was on physical disabilities.

A more recent 2022 report from the Scottish Commission for Learning Disabilities working with IPSOS MORI[169] highlighted the particular challenges faced by people with learning disabilities in being able to choose where and how they live. These barriers are thought to be similar to those faced by other disabled groups: availability of appropriate housing, lack of housing advice and support, legal barriers and discriminative attitudes.

The report found that around a third of people with learning disabilities live independently (35%). 52% of young adults aged 20-34 still lived with parents compared to 27% in the general population. And, around a third (35%) had not chosen where they lived.

What did LEAP think?

  • Housing and support allows neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities to live independently and much more could be done.
  • Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities are unlikely to know about their housing rights and what this means for them. There is a need for clear and accessible information about any rights to housing and independent living and the options available to them.
  • Securing adaptations to homes can be a lengthy process and being able to advocate for what they need, knowing who to talk to or where to go when problems arise is a challenge. The adaptations system needs to be quicker to meet people's needs, with more support available including advocacy.
  • Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities can sometimes be misunderstood as being incapable of living independently, when straightforward support is often all that is required.
  • There needs to be more data and information available on neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities and their housing needs.

Where do we want to get to?

  • Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities understand their rights around housing and to independent living, and are empowered to access and exercise those rights.
  • Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities have clear and effective routes to redress when they feel their rights have not been respected.
  • Neurodivergent people know where to go for housing advice and support, and are able to easily access services, independent advocates and housing officers.
  • Housing systems and processes, in particular allocations and adaptations, are streamlined and made easier for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities to navigate – avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy and delays.
  • The supply of accessible housing across Scotland is increased.
  • Housing services are knowledgeable and have the training they need to communicate and engage with neurodivergent people.
  • Relevant public authorities should set clear policies to address the housing needs of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities, which promote access and inclusion.

What happens now?

Existing housing rights and standards are set out in a range of legislation and guidance covering a wide range of housing-related policy and practice. This includes the following:

  • Homelessness: the law relating to homeless persons is found in the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 which places a number of duties on local authorities;
  • Tenancy Rights: the law regulating private residential tenancies is found in the Private Housing (Tenancies)(Scotland) Act 2016; the law regulating assured and short-assured tenancies is found in the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988; and the law regulating social tenancies (Scottish secure and Short Scottish secure tenancies);
  • Housing Standards: for tenanted properties the repairing standard[170] in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 will apply; for all residential properties whether tenanted or otherwise, the tolerable standard in the Housing (Scotland) Act 19087 will apply which is discussed in one of the next paragraphs;
  • Planning including housing strategic planning: the law relating to the development and use of land is found in the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended, and in supporting secondary legislation. They include a number of requirements relating to housing, particularly for the national planning framework and local development plans; for example on how planning will contribute to outcomes that improve equality, eliminate discrimination and meet the housing needs of older people and disabled people.
  • Regulation of the Housing Sector: the "Tolerable Standard" is the basic standard of human habitability, introduced in 1969 and added to periodically since then. Local authorities are required to have a strategy for ensuring that houses which do not meet the Tolerable Standard are closed, demolished or brought up to standard in a reasonable period, and they have broad discretionary powers to assist homeowners with work needed to meet the standard. The Tolerable Standard is required as part of the minimum standard for social landlords (the Scottish Housing Quality Standard[171]), and as part of the Repairing Standard for private rented homes.

From April 2015, all social housing must comply with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS). Social landlords in Scotland are already required by law to meet the Tolerable Standard which forms part of the SHQS. The performance of social landlords is monitored by the independent Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR).

The SHR publishes accessible information about the performance of each social landlord against the Scottish Social Housing Charter.[172] The Charter requires that social housing providers must work towards a set of outcomes, including ensuring that tenants are provided with information on how to obtain support to remain in their home (including adaptations). The SHR's most recent report found that compliance with the SHQS fell to 75% in March 2022 from 87%.[173]

We are committed to ensuring that every private tenant in Scotland is able to live in a safe and good quality home and that the condition of private rented sector properties are the right standard to help ensure a fair deal for all private tenants. Where the requirements of the Repairing Standards are not being met, tenants can apply to the First Tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber) (FTT) for a determination. Local Authorities have powers to apply to the Tribunal on behalf of vulnerable tenants.

Practical Issues such as how to access help to adapt or improve your home

Section 71(2)(e) of the Housing Scotland Act 2006 requires that local authorities must have a Scheme of Assistance which sets out the support that is available to a person who requires adaptations to their home. There are housing support services which are commissioned at local level and are often provided as part of a support package that may also include social care. The following guides provide further information:

Housing advice services are offered at a national and local level by third sector organisations such as Shelter and Housing Options Scotland.

What can we do about it?

We are progressing a number of initiatives to better protect and uphold rights around housing and independent living, as follows.

Housing to 2040

Housing to 2040[174] is Scotland's first long-term housing strategy, published in March 2021. It sets out our vision for how we want housing and the communities of the future to be, with actions on how to achieve that. This includes all aspects of housing and independent living for disabled and older people.

The aim of Housing to 2040 is to ensure everyone has a safe, good quality and affordable home that meets their needs in the place they want to be. Some of the actions include:

  • Reviewing the Housing for Varying Needs, the social housing design guide, and creating a Scottish Accessible Homes standard (SAHS).[175] The SAHS will raise the baseline level of accessibility, adaptability and usability of all new homes to meet the needs of different people. It will apply to homes delivered through the Scottish Government's Affordable Housing Supply Programme. It will also propose updates to building standards and guidance.
  • Increasing the supply of accessible and adapted homes and improving choice.
  • Streamlining and accelerating the adaptions system.
  • Providing help to disabled home owners who want to move to a home that better meets their needs.
  • Reviewing housing legislation - undertaking a comprehensive audit of our current housing legislation to help us assess how well current legislation protects marginalised groups and people with protected characteristics, and help us determine the best and most effective means of making the right to an adequate home a reality.
  • Providing a new Rented Sector Strategy which will take an equalities-led approach to addressing the current gaps in housing options for people with protected characteristics, with a specific focus on addressing the needs of disabled people and others.
  • Embedding a person-centred approach that aligns housing and health and social care services.

Independent Living Fund

We are reopening the Independent Living Fund on a phased basis, with an initial £9 million in 2024-25 to enable up to 1,000 additional disabled people with the most complex needs to access the support they need to live independent lives.[176] This will add to the support already being provided by the current Fund to nearly 2000 disabled people in Scotland with the most complex needs. We are working with disabled people's organisations and other stakeholders to co-design the reopened Fund, including developing eligibility criteria that will ensure funding is targeted at those who need it most.

International Human Rights

The International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)[177] provides the right to Adequate Standard of Living which includes the right to adequate housing.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)[178] recognises the barriers faced by disabled people in accessing their human rights, such as in relation to adequate housing and inclusion in the community. Articles 19 and 28 of the CRPD articulate several rights for disabled people relevant for housing, and support for living independently:

  • equal opportunity to choose place of residence and not obligated to live in a particular living arrangement
  • equal access to housing and community services/facilities
  • access to assistance and in-home, residential or other support services to support living in the community
  • right to adequate housing as part of an adequate standard of living
  • equal access to social protection, poverty reduction, poverty assistance and housing programmes

As noted in the introduction we are progressing a Human Rights Bill for Scotland as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, to incorporate a wide range of internationally recognised human rights belonging to everyone in Scotland into Scots law, within the limits of devolved competence.

Housing Bill

Whilst Scotland already has the strongest rights for homeless households in the UK, we are taking steps to further strengthen this. As set out in the 2023 Programme for Government[179] we will bring forward legislation in this Parliamentary year (2023/24) to deliver a New Deal for Tenants, including the introduction of long-term rent controls for the Private Rented Sector, creating new tenants' rights, and introducing new duties aimed at the prevention of homelessness.

What can the LDAN Bill do?

The Bill could provide a stronger focus on how public authorities' duties around housing and independent living can best be met for people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people. Some or all of the following could be explored further for possible inclusion in the Bill, or other work.

Proposal 1: Advice, advocacy and guidance

Adequate housing advice, support and advocacy were thought to be necessary to enable neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities to access their rights to housing and independent living. There is already an advice service available, Housing Options Scotland,[180] however this is not an independent advocacy service.

Whilst another section of this consultation deals with independent advocacy, this could include consideration of the introduction of specialist advocacy services for housing support.

Proposal 2: Neurodivergence and learning disabilities strategies

Strategies are discussed in the overarching themes section of this consultation where we propose legislative requirements for national and local strategies in future.

We could require strategies produced by local authorities to set out how independent living principles are embedded into assessment and allocations policies, to ensure real choice and control.

Local Authorities must currently produce Local Housing Strategies. We could consider whether these must also set out how the needs of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities are met, and to evaluate their progress.

With regard to Integration Authorities, we could consider requiring that their neurodivergent and learning disabilities strategies must: set out how housing, care and health services are integrated; describe the supports available to people to help them live independently; and, evaluate progress against this.

Proposal 3: Mandatory training for housing professionals

Proposals for mandatory training in the public sector are set out in the overarching themes section of this consultation. We propose introducing a statutory requirement for learning disabilities and neurodivergence training for professionals who work in health and social care settings as set out in the overarching themes section. We could consider extending this requirement to housing service professionals.

Proposal 4: Data

Proposals in relation to data are set out in the overarching themes section. We could consider the following in relation to data collection specifically in relation to housing and independent living:

  • Relevant public bodies, such as local authorities, to improve the way data is collected and shared, on the requirements of neurodivergent people, and people with learning disabilities, and their housing needs.
  • Collection of data on how many people with learning disabilities are considered not to have access to appropriate housing.

Proposal 5: Inclusive communications

Proposals in relation to inclusive communications are set out in the overarching themes section. We think there is likely to be a need for some documents in relation to housing to be available in easy read formats.


Email: LDAN.Bill@gov.scot

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