Thursday, 16 September 2021
Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters
I thank the Acting Chairman and the Minister of State. The issue I wish to raise is the lack of existing housing, particularly social housing, for people with disabilities and particularly the cases that have been presented to me regarding those who are wheelchair bound.
It became very apparent over the summer recess, in particular, that more and more people are in positions where they are seeking social housing that requires accessibility. The simple fact of the matter is that those houses are not there. There is a chronic shortage of social houses for people with accessibility issues or who are wheelchair bound and it is something that we need to address.
I will give an example of the types of situations from people who are presenting to my office in Cork South-West. One individual, a young gentleman, is wheelchair bound and is currently renting, and is also on the social housing list. That is a key link. So many people with disabilities are on low incomes and because that is intrinsically linked, unfortunately, in today's society, we have issues where many people with disabilities are on the social housing list. The housing stock is simply not there, however, and it is not adapted to care for their needs.
A perfect example is in Clonakilty, where we currently have 100 social houses being built along with Kinsale, where there are a further 50 houses. There are about another 50 houses in Skibbereen and more in Dunmanway. In one of the social housing developments in Clonakilty, which has more than 50 units, only six of those units have downstairs toilets and only one of those 50 units has a disabled or accessible toilet. Considering more than 640,000 people in Ireland have a disability, which is one in seven people, the ratio of houses within our social housing stock that are accessible to wheelchair users is nowhere near high enough. People like the gentleman about whom I spoke earlier are, therefore, in serious trouble and in dire need of housing.
I appreciate the Housing for All document, which is a plan that I believe in and will back fully. I know it will be implemented and it has good, strong sections on housing for people with disabilities. However, I firmly believe that in the interim, to look after the situations like those I described, we need to provide our local authorities with capital funding in order that they can either adapt their existing housing stock as houses become vacant, or acquire houses on the market and adapt them on a case-by-case basis for people with disabilities, particularly those who are wheelchair users. I urge the Minister of State to work with the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, to ensure that local authorities are provided with that funding to allow adaptation of existing stock.