A severely disabled man’s family say they are “close to the edge”, having waited years for Southwark Council to find their son a safe place to live.
Stefan David-Jones, 21, suffers from Cerebral Palsy, and gets around the two-bedroom house using crutches, a wheelchair, or by linking arms with his parents.
Stefan has endured multiple brain surgeries to treat his hydrocephalus – a condition where a tube is fitted to drain fluid from his brain. He also has learning difficulties which prevent him from being able to read or write, and has a short attention span.
His mum and step-dad, Suzy and Joseph Bobowicz, say their one real wish is to find a slightly bigger, more disabled-friendly council house for Stefan than their home in Dylways, near Denmark Hill Station.
Instead they are “infuriated” by how the council has treated them, and by what they claim is a continuing failure to “provide safe and adequate housing” for Stefan. Despite backing from Stefan’s nurses, his social worker, and even a council housing officer, they remain “trapped” in the home they never wanted.
Joseph, 48, told the News: “We have had endless problems with this house. For one thing the corridors are too narrow. Stefan isn’t a very big lad, but because he needs his wheelchair on his worse days, it’s incredibly difficult for him to get about the house on his own.
“There’s very poor disabled access to this house. Both our doors have concrete steps outside. One misstep could cause Stefan a serious injury. Third, we live on a steep hill here on Denmark Hill, I mean how is Stefan supposed to live an independent life and do basic things like go to the shop with his wheelchair when he’s been made to live on a hill?”
The reason they have repeatedly been rejected is because the family are on ‘Band Four’ of the council’s housing priority list, the lowest available. It is the couple’s understanding that they won’t stand a chance unless they are on Band Two. The council decides its bandings based on medical assessments, which Suzy and Joseph later discovered, do not need to be carried out in person. So the family were “stunned” to receive a letter on January 29 with the conclusion of an assessment, which found no “medical requirement” for the council to help them.
Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for housing, said: “I do sympathise with this family and the difficulties they are experiencing, but our housing stock is facing unprecedented demand and the housing team is having to ensure any new allocations or banding follows our allocations policy to make sure the system is fair to everyone.
“In this case a medical assessment in January found nothing to suggest that the family needed to be moved into a higher priority band. However, since hearing about this case, I have asked one of our housing officers to speak to our occupational therapists and see if they can make a secondary assessment.
“In the meantime our repairs team is already in contact with the family about their security concerns and we will work with them to help make their home more secure.”