Housing

Housing advice for people with learning disabilities: 'It's so important people know their rights'

People with learning disabilities trying to access housing can rely on Mencap for a helping hand

Illustration: Matt Murphy

Tina Dutton works for Mencap’s national helpline in England, offering advice to people with learning disabilities. Her role at Mencap is funded by the British Gas Energy Trust with a focus on energy poverty. She shares how Mencap can support people through housing worries. 

What housing issues do people with learning disabilities face? 

Lots of barriers. Accessing housing is difficult anyway, but the barriers that organisations and services put in place make it really difficult. It is even harder to get advice around housing that is accessible. There are duties local authorities have with regard to equality, but they don’t tend to adapt to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities. 

How common is it that homelessness and learning disabilities go hand in hand? 

More than I expected. There are occasions when the accommodation isn’t suitable for a person, and the instant reaction of the landlord is to serve notice. Accommodation is often unaffordable, especially recently. People are living in housing that is not suitable for their needs.  

It is so important for people to know their rights. People need to know what they are signing when they have a tenancy agreement. 

What is the most common question people ask? 

It would be the responsibilities of a tenancy. Finding accommodation can sometimes be the easiest part of the journey. Sustaining it can be a challenge. People might know about rent, but what about gas? Is there a medical need? Are they on the priority services register? 

What is your advice for people navigating these issues? 

We have created lots of easy reads. These include tips on how to read a meter and how to keep warm. We offer a service to look at people’s energy use and grants, looking at how to maximise incomes and reduce outgoings. Through our helpline, we talk through people’s issues and try to find the most appropriate support. 

Where to get help 

If you are in England, call Mencap’s helpline on 0808 808 1111, email helpline@mencap.org.uk or use the online form.

If you are in Wales, phone 0808 8000 300 or email helpline.wales@mencap.org.uk  

If you are in Northern Ireland, phone 0808 808 1111 or email helpline.ni@mencap.org.uk  

Check out Mencap’s easy reads around housing

Homeless Link also has a toolkit

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