Quarter of disabled children live in home that makes their condition worse

4 mins read

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Poor, overcrowded and unsuitable housing is having a devastating impact on the lives of families with disabled children across the country, according to our latest Counting the Costs research.

BBC Newsnight has exclusively covered the launch of our #CountingTheCosts housing study. Watch the programme below to hear from our CEO Amanda Batten and from three families whose lives have been devastated by the homes in which they live:

Here’s what we discovered

We surveyed more than 4000 UK families about their financial and housing situation. Based on 2,861 fully completed responses we found that:

  • Four in 10 (41%) families with disabled children have a home that doesn’t meet their child’s needs
  • Over a quarter (27%) of families say their home makes child’s condition worse or puts them at risk
  • Over a quarter (26%) say their home needs adaptations to meet child’s needs
  • One in five (21%) have feared losing their home in last 12 months

This needs to change. Take action and join our campaign.

Housing shortage and delays creating a perfect storm

Amanda Batten, Chief Executive of Contact, said: “These appalling statistics reflect what Contact hears on our helpline and from our face-to-face support services. Poor, overcrowded and unsuitable housing has a huge detrimental impact on the physical and mental health of families with disabled children and this urgently needs to be addressed.

“Our research found examples of parents bathing their child in a paddling pool downstairs as they are unable to get upstairs; parents carrying their physically disabled child up and down stairs because they are waiting for a hoist; children on the autistic spectrum, who need space and quiet, are sharing rooms with siblings or parents. Apart from the space issue, safety is a problem for children, often with autism, who have a passion for doors, locks and escaping.”

46% of the families who responded to Contact’s Counting the Costs survey are in rented accommodation (77% of those who are on Universal Credit). 38% own their own home with a mortgage, 12% own their home outright, and 4% are in temporary accommodation or living with a relative.

The biggest issue is the shortage of accessible social and affordable housing for families with disabled children. Then there are lengthy delays for financial help to adapt their homes, putting disabled child a risk and causing additional stress on families. It’s created a perfect storm.

Cramped housing was also detrimental to many disabled children’s education during lockdown and home schooling.

Our call to government to address urgent need

In response to the situation, we are calling on the government to:

  • Build more accessible and affordable social housing, and give greater priority to families with disabled children needing social housing.
  • Reduce waiting times for specialist home adaptations and increase the grants available.
  • Introduce higher accessibility standards when building new homes.
  • Create more and safer supported housing for disabled young people.

We’ll be launching the full Counting the Costs 2021 research findings soon. Keep up-to-date by signing up to our campaign updates. For press enquiries about the results please email press@contact.org.uk

Thank you to everyone who took part in our Counting the Costs survey and helped us draw attention to such an important problem.

Need advice on housing?

We have information on our website on:

You can also find advice from housing charity Shelter in:

Or if you live in Northern Ireland, from Housing Advice for Northern Ireland.