Mother’s fight for suitable home

Kelly Hunter’s son has co-ordination disorder

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The mother of a young man with ataxia, a disorder that affects his co-ordination and leads to him regularly falling down, is battling to get Leeds City Council to adapt their three-bedroom family home to allow him to sleep downstairs.

The local authority has claimed it can offer alternative accommodation. But Kelly Hunter contends that it has very few four-bedroom rented houses available. She wants to remain living with her son, Kayne Carden, aged 23, and three younger sons, on the Moortown estate where she is surrounded by family and friends.

Hunter’s case is backed by the Access Committee for Leeds (ACL), an unfunded body run by volunteers that campaigns on behalf of disabled adults, carers and older people, and helps them apply for housing adaptations.

Recommended changes

Following a site visit, Jane Burgess, a Leeds Council occupational therapist, recommended changes to the property to provide ground-floor living by installing a downstairs bedroom, bathroom and shallow steps at the front of the house. Funds would come from the council’s housing revenue account.

Leeds and York Partnership NHS also backs the bath application as the hot water would relax Carden’s leg muscles and make it easier to walk. He is currently sleeping downstairs or at his grandmother’s home nearby.

“Leeds City Council has ignored these recommendations, claiming there are alternative properties locally,” said Hunter. “If they find me a four bedroomed house on this estate then I will gladly move but few such empty properties exist across Leeds generally.

“I have got family support, good friends locally, the boys attend nearby schools. Kayne, who just avoided a very serious accident last year when he fell down the stairs, goes to a Mencap school.
I work flexible hours to fit in with everyone’s needs, which include the knowledge that Kayne will always live with me.”

Tim McSharry of ACL supports Hunter’s claims. “The refusal to adapt the home in favour of providing a real offer of an adapted property in the area is bewildering because such properties do not exist in realistic terms,” he said. “The policy is totally disjointed and her mandatory entitlement to an adaptation cannot be denied.”

ACL has a number of similar cases where tenants are being refused adaptation requests and the council is suggesting they consider moving to alternative properties, whether they exist or not.

He also cited the case of Mrs McKeown, a 63-year-old wheelchair-dependent secure tenant of Islington Council, which offered to rehouse her two miles away rather than install a platform lift.

Fighting their case

Last year the High Court ruled that the London borough could not refuse McKeown’s application for a disabled facilities grant simply because the property was deemed unsuitable for the tenant.

Big Issue North asked Leeds City Council if it would consider reviewing its decision to refuse an adaptation and whether delaying adapting the current family home will increase the likelihood of Carden suffering a serious accident.

A council spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to supporting disabled individuals to find positive housing solutions.” These include adaptations to current homes or “facilitating a move to a more suitable dwelling where current housing cannot be readily adapted”.

The spokesperson said cost is not taken into account when solving a housing issue relating to disability and policy making takes into account housing grants, current guidance and case law.

“For contested housing solution cases, Leeds City Council operates a comprehensive review process and a subsequent independent appeal panel,” added the spokesperson.

ACL has now helped Hunter complete legal aid help forms that will be submitted to a solicitor to seek legal representation to fight her case.

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