§ Mr. Carter-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to increase the amount of housing suitable for people who are physically handicapped; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Freeson
Progress since the 1970 Act is far from satisfactory. I am, therefore, starting an urgent drive to get much more of this type of housing provided. It should be a normal part of every single housing authority's activity.
Circular 74/74, which was sent to local authorities and housing associations in May last year, asked them to increase the numbers of dwellings suitable for disabled people and to widen the range of what is available. The Department's regional offices will now take up with all housing authorities the need to incorporate provision for disabled people within their programmes. In particular, authorities will be asked to incorporate mobility 488W housing, together with some wheelchair housing, in all new housing schemes of any size. They will be advised, however, that in such developments care must be taken to ensure that the units for disabled people in wheelchairs are limited in number and placed in wheelchairs are limited in number and placed amongst other housing in such a way that they can be part of an integrated community.
I would like to see more authorities and housing associations carrying out sheltered and other schemes for more severely disabled people, which will be integrated into the community, with support services available. My aim is that within 12 months every housing authority in the country will be incorporating housing for disabled people in at least one new scheme. I intend to visit as many of these special housing schemes as I can.
Authorities will be asked also to give prompt attention to proposals for improvement and adaptation of accommodation for disabled people, especially as there are now new provisions for grant aid in the Housing Act 1974.
New towns will be playing their part, and the Housing Corporation and the National Federation of Housing Associations are urging housing associations to supplement local authority provisions in this as in other spheres.
Under Section 3 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 a number of local authorities have over the past four years reported to the Department proposals for building 1,721 new dwellings for handicapped people. Not only is this not enough, but of these prospective dwellings 1,088 have not yet been started. I am deeply concerned about this. My Department's regional offices will be asking authorities to make further progress with these schemes immediately.
As further encouragement and publicity for this type of provision the awards for good design in housing competition will this year, for the first time, have a separate category for schemes in the public sector which consist of or incorporate dwellings designed for the special needs of disabled people. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be taking similar action in Wales.