My house is completely unsuitable. For a start it has very steep unadaptable stairs that I struggle to get up on good days, and not at all on bad, it has large steps at the front and back that my wheelchair can’t get up (and it needs to come in to be charged), the parking is quite far up the road which is very much a struggle, the rooms aren’t big enough to have the equipment I need to help me, and the road has the highest pollution in Colchester – which I’m allergic to.Our local council housing works on the system of ‘bands’. Everyone is put into bands according to need with A being the highest, going down to E. There are all kinds of categories that move people up bands, such as overcrowding, being homeless, fleeing from domestic violence, or medical needs. Band C covers people for ‘minor medical need’ and band B for ‘major medical need’ and A for ‘severe medical need.’
We were originally in band D, and put in a medical claim, that moved us to C. Sadly, band Cs have pretty much no hope at all of ever getting a property, so we put in a second medical claim. In the meantime I had accumulated a stack of medical evidence, and shiny new diagnoses, and had become a wheelchair user.
One of the symptoms of my conditions is that I find noise very difficult, as it increases my pain. There is a scientific reason for this – it’s due to sensory overload, so we thought it would be really nice to have a bungalow, than a flat where there is a much greater chance of noise.
So we put in for another medical claim – with piles of evidence, and it again came back at a band C, but saying we could bid on bungalows. That’s about as useful as a chocolate teapot – as you will never, ever, ever get a bungalow on a C.
The difficult part in all of this is how much we can kick up a fuss. I have strong work and family ties to the housing department making the decisions. So I know the people involved, which makes it a little awkward to say what the bloody hell kind of decision is this? When family members did ask questions, she got quite vague responses, as they obviously felt they did not need to respond to a member of staff in the same manner as a member of the public.
We were recommended to speak to the Housing Portfolio Holder, a councillor, and we asked if he would act as an intermediary to ask the questions we wanted answering, in order to form an appeal letter.
At first he seemed amenable, and asked a couple of questions on our behalf, allowing us to ask him, then rewriting them and sending them without our name onto the council. But then he got the gist of a question wrong, and when politely corrected sent back this charming response:
“I am afraid that I do not see why you cannot ask this question yourself and, therefore am not prepared to continue to act as an intermediary. It strikes me that going to appeal at this stage is both unnecessary and expensive.”
I am quite offended by this, the tone seeming very rude, and abrupt. We had already explained why we were asking for him to act as an intermediary, and had asked him as the councillor overseeing the housing department.
Secondly, appeals don’t cost, and third – I do in fact find it entirely necessary, as I’m sure he would too if he was struggling to reach his own bedroom each night, due to the fact the council are not applying their own policy correctly.
Honestly, these people are meant to be elected to help us – yet on the first time we ever ask for a councillor to help us, get this response back.