More accommodation needed for domestic abuse survivors with disabilities

A Cornish charity is calling for more accessible refuge accommodation for people with complex needs, particularly those with a disability.

Harbour Housing, which supports people with housing and homelessness, has been running its escaping violence and abuse (EVA) project for the past two years, providing specialist support to survivors of domestic abuse.

This means there are always twelve spaces available so survivors of abuse with complex needs can reach safety and get the right support to develop.

One of these spaces is specially designed to be accessible for survivors with a physical disability, and the charity said that there is a need for more like it.

Kate Moss, project manager of the EVA project, said: ‘When we look at the interplay between domestic abuse, substance misuse and injury from violent behaviour, actually that’s quite high.

‘We’ve had a lot of referrals for people with disabilities, so for us it’s become a priority really and we’d love to look at how we can develop more accessible units to mean that people can flee their domestic abuse situation and come to somewhere which is comfortable for them.

‘Rather than feeling that they’ve constantly got to adapt to their environment, we wanted to do that for them.’

In the two years that the project has been running, 28% of referrals were for those with a disability, demonstrating a clear need.

Harbour’s building services engineer Bianca Guilherme explains what makes the accessible unit so unique: ‘This is a disabled access unit, not a disabled adaptable unit.

‘This means it was designed specifically to accommodate people with disabilities rather than just having the potential to be adapted at a later date.

‘We have things like a wet room instead of a shower and there are turning spaces for wheelchair users as well as lowered countertops and cabinets.

‘The bed is fully mechanical, enabling it to be raised and lowered by remote control, and there are three emergency call points within the building.

‘Lots of research went into this and the unit complies with all of the disabled access building regulations.’

Harbour is championing the need for more services to be accessible and tailored for all those with a disability, both in terms of physical disabilities and learning disabilities.

Around 1.5m people in the United Kingdom have a learning disability, as well as 10% of all those referred into the EVA project.

Kate said that support workers are able to work with beneficiaries to provide the most suitable support to their situation.

An example of this is providing more support around officialdom for those with a learning disability, with 34% of those in Harbour’s EVA service requiring support with reading and writing.

‘We’re looking to really involve our service users in designing a service which further meets their needs.

‘The most important thing on the EVA project is supporting people to feel safe.’

Photo Credit – Greg Rosenke


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