Interview with Aspire’s Housing Advice Manager Laura

Laura Hagan

Every eight hours someone is paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury in the UK – it can happen to anyone at any time and there’s currently no cure. No one is prepared for how it will change their life, and often people who’ve sustained a Spinal Cord Injury face difficulties accessing their own home.

Aspire’s Housing Advice Service provides support to people to ensure that they have an accessible home to live in. We sat down to have a chat with Laura, the Housing Advice Manager at Aspire and she told us why her job is so important, and what she likes the most about it.

Please tell us a bit about your job, what’s your role?

I manage the housing advice side of the charity; my team and I will deal with enquiries about housing and accessible housing after someone has sustained a spinal cord injury.

What do you enjoy the most with your job?

The most enjoyable part is always the successes the service has had in finding or ensuring someone has an accessible home.  To see people doing the things they were unable to do before and thriving with that independence is always by far the best part. It’s the little things that often mean the most. Hearing your client tell you they were able to host their kid’s birthday party this year or a family gathering, that they can now leave the house unassisted and have so many plans! Those are the parts that make me truly love my job. 

Although, I must say, I also feel such a surge of happiness when I’m speaking with a client who no longer needs us. That’s not to say they haven’t encountered difficulties, life in general is never that simple and we are of course, always here to step in and help. But to hear your client, who was initially so overwhelmed at the prospect of dealing with their local council, tell you how confident they now feel in handling these situations having worked with us. That makes me really very happy.

Why’s your job important?

Accessible housing in this country is virtually non- existent, if you think; could I access my property in a wheelchair? Would you be able to? For most people, that’s a no. Everyone has a fundamental human right to housing, when someone acquires a spinal cord injury they usually have a home that’s no longer accessible to them, which means that they have essentially been made homeless and are often separated from family, friends and their community. They are often staying in inaccessible accommodation, unable to leave the property or access basic necessities like washing facilities and food. That’s so much more than just a financially and physically daunting experience - it’s an incredibly emotional one. A home is more than just four walls and a roof, and everyone should have the right to live in security, peace, and dignity. Being able to ensure people have access to their homes, to find a new home and ultimately regain their independence is hugely important.  

What are the most common issues people affected by Spinal Cord Injury face when it comes to housing?

The most common issue, broadly speaking, is that they have nowhere accessible to go to once they are discharged. Finding accommodation whether temporary or permanent is daunting and often people are discharged to a care home or to live in inaccessible accommodation which leaves them cut off from friends and family as well as access to facilities for their basic human needs.  The impact this has on both physical and mental health is huge.

Generally, people need to adapt their current home to suit their needs or find a more accessible property. What options are available to them depends entirely on their circumstances.

Could you please tell us about a recent case-study?  

We recently resolved a case involving a client with a high level injury. The case had been ongoing for a considerable amount of time, over 3 years. After her injury she couldn’t access her property at all and she was having a lot of difficulty resolving the situation. She was entirely reliant on a very high level of care just to exit and manoeuvre around the property.  She required a lot of necessary adaptations and she was constantly being passed back and forth between different housing and care departments with neither taking responsibility and often, not responding at all. We had to continually advocate quite heavily and ensure that all agencies supported our client as they should. It was a particularly daunting case and the ignorance of the agencies involved was just shocking. But the main thing is she is now in an accessible home and very happy.

Here at Aspire we are so dependent on our amazing fundraisers, so sign up for the Aspire Channel Swim to support people living with Spinal Cord Injuries!

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