A HEXHAM woman has made history as the first person with Down’s Syndrome to give oral evidence to a parliamentary committee.
Tessa Bolt, a resident of Mencap’s housing arm Golden Lane Housing in the town, gave evidence about supported housing to the joint Work and Pensions and Communities and Local Government Select Committee, which is assessing the Government’s plans to overhaul the supported housing sector.
When the Government announced its plan to localise funding for supported housing in September 2016, Mencap and other charities voiced concerns this could lead to a postcode lottery, worsening the housing crisis already facing many people with a learning disability.
Tessa, 46, who lives with two housemates who also have a learning disability, gave evidence on March 7 in a landmark moment for people with Down’s Syndrome.
“It’s great knowing that I am going to be a part of history and I hope more people with a learning disability give evidence in the future,” said Tessa.
“Supported housing is something that I am really passionate about and I am really happy that the committee get to hear about it from someone who has a learning disability and uses supported housing.
“I love my home; I have really lovely housemates and have learnt so many new skills since moving. Supported housing gives me security and it lets me be independent, something everyone with a learning disability should have.”
Golden Lane Housing has 13 properties providing homes to 21 people in the Tynedale area.
Rob Holland, parliamentary manager at Mencap, said: “The Government’s proposals to change funding for supported housing have cast a cloud of uncertainty over the sector.
“Providers have either cancelled or postponed the building of new, specially adapted properties for disabled people, despite the demand increasing.
“It’s therefore hugely encouraging for people with a learning disability that a parliamentary committee heard evidence from someone with a learning disability who is currently living independently, in no small part due to supported housing.
“We hope that Tessa is the first of many people with a learning disability to be listened to on this issue.”
Helen Hayes MP, member of the Communities and Local Government Committee and joint chair of the inquiry, said: “It is important that the committees speak to people with direct experience of living in supported housing if we are to fully understand the issues facing the sector.”