By Clare Lawrance, Asset Manager, Homes and Places, CHP.

I’ve been an in-patient this week. Some early thoughts: the NHS ought to be correctly called the National Health System, not service. It’s a series of not enough people paid not enough to adhere to a patchwork of systems that doesn’t care fully for human beings’ needs for dignity and wellbeing.

Keeping people alive is obviously important but keeping people well mentally and with dignity is equally important. We have a national love affair with the romantic ideal of the NHS. We need to get over ourselves and consider what people really want.


I wrote the above on my phone when I was literally trapped in my hospital bed. Now, few weeks later, mainly recovered, I can reflect and consider what lessons I and housing can learn from my experiences.

We (as an industry and a society) tend to reduce human beings with complex lives, desires, and aspirations to a simple to manage reference number.

Homes are properties or, worse, stock. In reality the homes we ‘manage’ (I prefer ‘curate’) are spaces where the diversity of life thrives, expands to fill the void, and provides the foundation for vibrant individuals and communities to flourish.

I’m a busy mum of two primary-age children but for a short time this autumn I was a frail and unsteady disabled person who saw more sympathetically tilted heads than I ever wish to see again. I temporarily needed adaptations to my home and life.

My family and employer were magnificent, but I was forcefully reminded how disempowering it must be for similarly affected ‘service users’ who don’t have my privileges to wade through ‘services’ with the simple aim of being able to get washed and dressed safely and with dignity.

Whilst I hope to fully recover soon, I hope the legacy of my experience is to treat people not merely better but with respect to their whole self, not purely the ‘issue’ they present with.

Inclusive design of our whole industry ought to support everything we do as professionals. We (and I include myself in this) are inclined to ‘othering’ – i.e., this issue affects those people over there, it wouldn’t ever be me. We don’t speak to people as human beings but as the recipient of our services.

The more we can do to design what we ‘do’ around people who we recognise as ourselves, the better our offer will be.