A severely-disabled young man’s family have again been denied a decent council house, despite recommendations from council social workers and occupational therapists.
Joseph and Suzy Bobowicz have been battling since July to find their son, Stefan David-Jones, a home that can accommodate his need for crutches and a wheel chair.
Twenty-one-year-old Stefan is also impaired by memory loss and learning difficulties that make him unable to read and write, and a short attention span. Stefan has also had multiple brain surgeries to treat his hydrocephalus – a condition where a tube is fitted to drain fluid from his brain.
The council’s own occupational therapists and social workers have told the family they deserve to be made a priority for a new, safer home for Stefan. His step-father, Joseph, showed the News a letter they received after a recent assessment by the council’s occupational therapists, which stated Stefan was “likely to become a full-time wheelchair user in the near future”.
The letter reads: “There are inadequate turning circles and circulation space in the present property… The kitchen is not spacious enough to encourage his development of kitchen activities being taught at college, and does not have the space to accommodate him as a future wheelchair user.
“The doorways are too narrow… and the property is on a steep hill, Stefan is unable to get out without an attendant. Due to poor rear access, Stefan is unable to access the garden.”
Suzy and Joseph, who live with Stefan at their council home in Dylways, near Denmark Hill, also told the News they were given a “priority nomination” for a new council home by Stefan’s former social worker.
But it appears the council’s own social housing department are opposing all attempts to help Stefan, despite receiving the same letter on April 1.
The crushing news was confirmed to the family via a letter from Southwark Council Housing Options on April 27, telling them they have been placed in Band Three rather than Band Two.
Joseph said: “We have been told off-the-record by council officers that being in Band Three means Stefan stands almost no chance of getting adequate housing.
“We have been told there are twelve people with wheelchair needs who are currently on the waiting list for a new house, and who are in Band Two. While Stefan is being kept on Band Three, he will always be lower priority than those people.”
Suzy and Joseph also say the decision to keep Stefan in Band Three is “insulting” because Band Three is defined by the council as people who are “homeless” and “need to move because of their illness”.
“This is ridiculous,” Joseph said, “because Stefan is not ‘ill’ he is clearly severely disabled and his condition is getting worse. With everything he has been through since he was born he is lucky even to be alive.
“We just feel completely alone in this. What we want is to raise awareness with other families so they know this is how Southwark Council treat people.”
Cllr Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for housing, said: “I sympathise completely with this family and the difficulties they are experiencing, it is a difficult situation. But our housing stock is facing unprecedented demand and the housing team has to make difficult decisions to ensure any new allocations or banding follows our allocations policy to make sure the system is as fair as it can be to everyone.
“In this case we have done all we can to make sure a fair and transparent assessment has been made. Following the family’s medical assessment in January our housing officers arranged for an occupational therapist to visit them make a secondary assessment. The family received a new housing score and consequently and new banding was issued, moving them up to band Three on our Housing Bidding scheme, but all assessments concluded that currently there are no grounds to move up to band Two.”