Housing and how to choose where to live with complex disabilities

This page gives you questions to start thinking through where you live now or in the future, the housing options you can explore and top tips for finding the right place for you.

Lin Wallace, a supported living tenant, loading a washing machine.

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Sense is here for you at every stage of life

We support people with complex disabilities of all ages.

From our free play sessions for children under eight, to our adult residential care services, we’re with disabled people and their families every step of the way.

Get in touch with our team to find out more about Sense services.

Thinking about where to live is a big decision for anyone.

But if you have complex disabilities or care for a loved one with complex disabilities, there are even more things to consider and plan.

As with most areas of life, the earlier you start thinking and talking about it, the better. This is true whether you are a young person with complex disabilities preparing for your adult life or a parent thinking about the time when you may no longer be able to be your adult child’s primary carer.

Questions to start your thinking

Here are some of the questions you could talk about with your family and others who support you. These will get you thinking about the housing options that may be best for you.

Why do I want to move?

For example, perhaps you want to be more independent or to try living with different people. Or maybe you want to be closer to someone in your family.

When do I want to move?

You may be happy where you are for a few years, and if you’re in your family home, you may have time to think about it. Or you may need to move more quickly because where you live now isn’t right for you.

Where do I want to move?

For example, perhaps you’re going to university or starting a job, and need to live somewhere nearby. Or maybe you’d like to live somewhere with more amenities, where you can have a better social life.

What kind of home do I want to live in?

Maybe you’d like to share a home with other people. Or perhaps you need to prioritise a home with all the support you need.

What else is important to me?

It could be helpful to jot down a list of everything else that matters, such as:

  • Being near friends and family.
  • Keeping the same support you have now.
  • Being in a certain environment, such as a lively town or quiet rural area.

What are the practical things I need to think about?

There are often other factors that influence where you live, including:

  • What you can afford.
  • What type of care and support you need.
  • What care and support services are available.

Who can help me think it through?

  • Your family, or perhaps a friend who knows you well.
  • If you are a young person in education, your school or college should also be able to help you.

How do I pay for my home and the support I need to live there?

Housing options

Here are the options available:

1.  Living with family

  • If you are living with your family now, you may decide together that the best option is to stay where you are. Or you may be living somewhere else, for example at a residential college, and moving back to your family parents is an option for you to consider.
  • You or your family may make need to make some changes to the home, so it meets your needs, especially if these change over time.
  • Remember, living independently doesn’t always mean living away from the family home.
  • If you qualify for adult social care, you may get help:
    • With equipment to support your daily life at home.
    • To develop your independent living skills, including personal care, managing money, travelling independently, and making decisions.

2.  Supported living

  • You live in a shared home or alone, either renting as a tenant or owning.
  • The support you need to live independently is arranged with a care and support provider.
  • This means your tenancy is separate from your care and support. If you want to change your care and support provider, you can without having to move house.
  • Your housing and support are tailored to you so you’re not having to fit into a service.
  • You choose where you live, who with, what support you have and what happens in your home.
  • This isn’t just for people who are more independent – anyone, no matter how complex your disabilities, can have supported living.
  • Lots of charities, like Sense, housing associations and private companies run supported living schemes.

Find out more about Sense Supported Living for people with complex disabilities.

3. Residential care

  • This is long-term care in a registered care home.
  • Most residential homes will have 24-hour support.
  • Some residential care homes, like those run by Sense, have specialist expertise in supporting certain disabilities or conditions.
  • Nursing homes are also residential care homes with a registered nurse available 24 hours a day.
  • For some people, residential care is funded by the local authority. The person’s benefits go towards paying for your housing, food, bills and care, and you get a small personal allowance.
  • If you’re able to fund your residential care, including through an insurance settlement, you may be able to find a place yourself.

Find out more about Sense Residential Care services.

4. Shared Lives

  • Shared Lives is a model of care where adults over 16 are matched with an approved Shared Lives carer.
  • Sometimes the person with complex disabilities moves in with a Shared Lives carer full time.
  • Sometimes they have regular home visits to support them to remain as independent as they would like to be.

5. Social housing

  • Social housing is houses or flats owned by the local authority (LA), housing associations or charities.
  • The rents are usually cheaper than renting privately.
  • You might live alone or share.
  • You can have support in your home.
  • If you are thinking of social or council housing, contact your local authority’s housing department to see if you qualify for housing and find out how to apply.
  • They will usually have to put your name on the housing register.
  • Get your name on lists as soon as you can – there may be a long waiting list and people with the highest needs are usually prioritised.
  • Remember: in many areas, there is a shortage of housing, and it can be hard to find housing for a person with complex disabilities.  

6. Other housing options

Renting from a private landlord:

  • You rent from someone who lets out a property they own.
  • It may cost more but you probably won’t have to wait as long.

Shared ownership:

  • Part-renting and part-buying your home through a housing association.
  • You pay rent for the portion the housing association owns.

Home ownership:

  • You buy your own home, often with a mortgage.

Family investment:

  • Buying or renting a home using family money, an inheritance or a trust.

Some kinds of trust let you own a home while still qualifying for benefits.

Top tips for finding the right place

Here are things to keep in mind as you think about where to live and what support you need with those who know you best:

  • The sooner you start to think about it, the better. You can use the questions above to help you start.
  • Remember, thinking about it and discussing it now doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen now or even soon. It means you have more time to find the right place and support when the time comes, and you’re ready to grab any opportunity that comes along.
  • Use the internet to search for:
    • Charities that help with housing.
    • Housing associations.
    • Local council housing.
    • Estate agents who let out properties.
    • Local housing workshops.
  • Make a list of any adaptations that you might need to make in a property.
  • Think about how you will pay for housing and the support you will need.
  • Discuss with your family whether homeownership is a realistic way forward.
  • Take time to understand any tenancy agreement.
  • If it works out that you leave the family home, your parents – or other family members – can continue to give support by:
    • Giving you practical help to make your new living arrangements work.
    • Helping you feel confident and safe in your new home.
    • Sharing the excitement and joy of you moving into your new home.

Get support to live more independently

Whichever housing option you consider, make sure you also discuss how you can be supported to live more independently.

This includes care in the home and access to social care support. For example, communicator guide, day services, specialist further education if you’re aged 16-25.

It also includes:

  • Learning life skills such as menu planning, shopping, cooking, budgeting and keeping your home clean and tidy.
    • Getting involved in the community through:
      • Education courses.
      • Leisure activities.
      • Hobbies and socialising.
      • Work opportunities.
      • Holidays.

Sense supports people with complex disabilities to live more independently in lots of ways.

Find out more about support you can get from Sense.

This content was last reviewed in April 2023. We’ll review it again in 2025.