Independent living

Around one in five adults in the UK is disabled, and more than one million of those live alone. With the right support and facilities, leading an independent life with a physical or learning disability is now more achievable than ever.

Living independently doesn't mean that you're not entitled to support from social services, and it doesn't mean that family and friends aren't important.

Wendy Gross of the National Centre for Independent Living, an organisation that helps disabled people live independently, says: "Even though you want to live independently, it's still important to have support from friends and family nearby in cases of emergency, and also for company." 

What will I need in my home?

If you're going to live independently, a suitable home is the single most important step. Ask yourself: is your home adequate for your needs, or will it need adjustments before you can live in it?

"The social services department of your local council will conduct a health and social care assessment to establish your specific needs," says Gross. This could include an assessment by an occupational therapist to instruct on the various types of equipment you need.

The Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) has a handy tool that will help you compile a list of your requirements. The DLF also offers advice on how to choose the equipment that's right for you.  

Once I know what I need, how can I adapt my house?

According to the DLF, social care services can offer financial support to give you more freedom of movement around your home and provide essential facilities within it.

This may include:

  • widening doors and installing ramps
  • providing or improving access to rooms and facilities – for example, by installing a stairlift or providing a downstairs bathroom
  • improving or providing a heating system that suits your needs
  • adapting heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use
  • improving access to and movement around the home to enable you to care for another person who lives in the property, such as a child

A home improvement agency (HIA) will also give you free advice about what work needs to be done, and can even recommend builders that can carry out the adjustments.

To find a HIA near you, go to the Foundations website. It will give you a list of organisations that supply disability equipment. 

Can I live independently in provided accommodation?

Living in accommodation provided by an external organisation doesn't necessarily mean the end of independent life.

There are various housing types available to you if you have special needs. Supported or sheltered housing enables people to live independently but with extra daily support. You can apply for sheltered housing through GOV.UK.

Care homes offer a level of support that can't be provided in your own home. Some offer full-time nursing care, while others support people with a specific disability or medical need.  

What financial help can I get to help me live independently?

"Financial help will depend on your needs," says Gross. This financial help is intended to help you pay for your rent, equipment, house improvements or essential adaptations.

You can get money directly from social services to arrange the social care that you're entitled to through the direct payment scheme, instead of letting social services arrange it for you. This gives you more control over the care you receive.

Find out more on GOV.UK about financial help if you're disabled

How can I arrange a health and social care assessment?

You can find more information and arrange a health and social care assessment from your local social services through GOV.UK.

Page last reviewed: 30/04/2014

Next review due: 30/04/2016

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

theresa said on 25 March 2008

i need some information my nan who is 75 had her leg amputated in 2007 she lives with husband who is 79 the only help she has been given is 2 ramps to property she has problems bathing and other daily needs and as a grandchild i would like to find out if she is able to have any help with her home being adapted for her thank you

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