It is no coincidence that the right to adequate housing is included in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The place you call home has a fundamental impact on your life. It is at once your roadside inn, your granary and your fortress. It is where you sleep, where you eat and where you shield yourself from the world beyond. In the words of the Declaration, adequate housing is one of the most basic human needs, and is essential for human dignity, physical and mental health, and overall quality of life. This has never been more appparent than after a year largely spent indoors.
Among its many tragedies, the pandemic has exposed – and exacerbated – one of the great faultlines in our society. It has simultaneously shone a light on the plight of people who live in unsuitable and inapropriate housing, and expanded the number of people who are unable to access or afford the housing that they need and deserve. Even before the pandemic, four million people in the UK were on social housing waiting lists.
One area that is particularly concerning is the shortfall of housing for those with care needs: people with learning disabilities, autism, physical disabilities and other long-term conditions. Many of the most vulnerable in the UK are housed away from friends, family and local communities in institutional care settings, like long-stay hospitals and care homes. These settings deprive people of the independence that they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives while costing the state more than is necessary. With the Government’s finances under strain even before the pandemic, it’s unlikely the Government alone will be able to provide the high quality, community-based homes that it wants but too often cannot afford.