Yesterday Barnet refused to commit to the renovations needed to make a house offered to the last Sweets Way family, accessible for Mostafa’s needs as a wheelchair user.
Barnet Homes decided, unequivocally on Monday, that Mostafa – a resident of the last Sweets Way household and a wheelchair user with serious spinal injuries – is able to walk. They refused to tell the family exactly how they had come to this conclusion.
This would be utterly ridiculous if the costs were not so high. Mostafa injured his back three years ago while working as a carer in a home for the elderly. Since then, Barnet Homes have bounced the family around between temporary accommodations, none of which have been suitable to Mostafa’s needs. But after years of indignity and challenges created by inadequate housing offers, Mostafa is clear that he will not settle for something that fails to meet his basic needs. His Sweets Way home is far from perfect, but he’s not keen to go through the stress of another move, only to find his situation worsened and access reduced.
The house offered by Barnet Homes is not in Barnet (it is in Enfield), miles away from Mostafa’s medical appointments, his five-year-old daughter’s school, and the family and support networks that Mostafa relies on. But even these concerns aside for a moment, there is nothing suitable about the property itself.
In spite of the facts, Barnet have decided that Mostafa is only a part-time wheelchair user, and that he only needs the wheelchair when he is outside of the house. They somehow came to this conclusion after reading the latest report from Mostafa’s occupational therapist, which includes the following passages:
- “[Mostafa] reports having very limited confidence when mobilising without wheelchair. [He] described that when mobilising, his left leg can “collapse”, presenting a possible further falls risk, and this appears to be affecting his confidence to mobilise without use of his wheelchair.
- [Mostafa] reported previous falls within the current and previous property, one of which he claimed had resulted in him becoming unconscious…
- [Mostafa’s] medication regime also reportedly causes him significant dizziness and drowsiness, and the pain he experiences in the mornings does not abate for roughly 1.5 hours until his medication has taken effect.”
And were these quotes not evidence enough, they are corroborated by several other reports, by Mostafa’s GP, a local disability charity, and several other medical professionals and experts. Finally, that same occupational therapist report recommends that a new home “should feature doorways that are wide enough to allow [Mostafa] to mobilise independently in his wheelchair.” This is simply not the case at the new house and Barnet Homes claims there is simply no need for it to be.
When asked how they came to the conclusion that Mostafa was ‘able to mobilise within the house with the use of a cane,’ they could only say that ‘we make our assessments based on looking at the range of factors available to us.’ What specifically those factors were, and how the assessment came to so thoroughly contradict the statements about Mostafa’s need for a wheelchair-friendly home, remains shrouded in mystery. All the officials will say is that ‘we’re clearly not going to agree on the assessment,’ as though Mostafa’s ability to get in and out of rooms in his house was something that needed to be agreed upon!
Ultimately, because Barnet’s housing policy is so skewed towards finding any excuse to discharge people from its list, Mostafa accepted the place, but on the conditions that he will move once a series of basic health and safety questions have been adequately addressed, the main one being that the door frames are widened to allow his wheelchair to pass freely through them.
The coming days will determine the critical detail of the arrangement, though at this stage, Barnet expect Mostafa to move into a home that will require him to have twenty-four-hour adult support around to actually live in. They will not admit that this is the case, and though they have the power to discharge him from their housing list, they do not have the power to deny the realities of Mostafa’s disability.
The selective reading of Mostafa’s medical reports is unacceptable. We know that if they are doing this to him, they are inevitably doing the same to so many others. Their offer has been reluctantly accepted, but the details are still to be ironed out – and now is the moment when Barnet Homes needs to hear from all of us, so they know that they can’t simply pick-and-choose the facts they deem worthy of assessment and then decide what they are responsible for, based on hand-picked details, which they are unwilling to even reveal to the family involved.
Mostafa needs the following adaptations made to the property on offer, if it is going to be an acceptable place for him to live with his family:
- All ground floor door frames expanded to allow an independent wheelchair user to pass through easily,
- A stair lift so Mostafa can reach his daughter’s second floor bedroom.
Until these adaptations (as well as those already agreed to by Barnet) are complete, Mostafa would only be able to live in the new property with twenty-four hour assistance, for both practical needs and in case of emergencies. This is not acceptable.
We held a noisy protest outside Barnet Homes today, but we need to keep the pressure up. They need to know that London is watching them and will continue to stand with Mostafa.
Send Troy Henshall [Troy.Henshall@barnet.gov.uk], Interim Chief Executive of the Barnet Group (which owns Barnet Homes) an email right away, and tell him that Barnet needs to acknowledge the true state of Mostafa’s health, and then accept exactly what their responsibilities are.
Demand that they do exactly what is needed to make the new property accessible, and that they support Mostafa’s right to remain at Sweets Way until they can demonstrate, without doubt, that he will be safe and able to live independently in his new home!