Lack of wheelchair-accessible housing forces 20-year-old to live in parents' shed

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports on the struggles some people across the UK are encountering to find wheelchair-accessible housing

A young man has told ITV News how a lack of wheelchair-accessible housing left him feeling suicidal.

Ash Mason, 20, is currently living in an outbuilding at the back of his parents' garden in Derbyshire.

I watch him as he struggles to make his way through the garden, down several concrete steps.

First, he has to lock the wheels of his wheelchair, before he grasps the fabric of his trousers so that he can lift each leg out of the foot plates.

He then uses the strength of his arms to haul his body out of the wheelchair - landing on the cold paving slabs. Next, he shuffles along the steps, before lifting his wheelchair over his head. It falls noisily onto the ground below, as he then drags his body back onto the seat.

It's exhausting and it's painful, but Ash has to do it every single day, many times a day, each time he needs the bathroom or some food.

Ash has been living here for three months. It's a single room, with a bed and a desk. There's no heating, no kitchen, no bathroom, no running water.

He tells me his previous council provided a property so unsuitable for a wheelchair it left him feeling helpless.

"There wasn't room to move my wheelchair around, so unfortunately I had to become very over-reliant on carers to do things like cook for me, clean, help me have a shower and clean my teeth - things that I could really do myself, if the place was just accessible," he said.

He added that the strain took its toll on his mental health.

Ash demonstrates how he gets to the outbuilding at the bottom of his parents' garden

"I ended up hospitalised because I tried to take my own life, due to just being so lonely and isolated and anxious and just scared. I didn't want to keep living like that and I could see no way out."

A spokesperson for Chesterfield Borough Council said: “We apologise that the available accommodation did not fully meet Mr Mason’s needs at this time.

"We tried to address the issues at the property and were committed to working with Mr Mason, and our partner agencies, to try and offer an alternative, more suitable home but this was not able to be taken up.”

After he was discharged from hospital, Ash spent six months sleeping on friends' floors and sofas.

"I was in pain, my back was hurting constantly, I had these open sores develop on my hands from trying to drag myself upstairs at these houses that weren't accessible, but they were all I had.

"I reached a point where I couldn't do it anymore and that's why I ended up living here."

"But I shouldn't have to be living in a shed at the bottom of my parents' garden at 20-years-old.

"I should be able to go out, go to university, learning to drive and having a social life, all of the things that a normal young man should be doing."

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A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said : "We will be working with him to ensure he has access to the right support to suit his individual needs.

"This will include supporting him to make an application for housing to our district and borough partners in the area where he wants to live.”

Research shared exclusively with ITV News reveals the shortage of accessible housing across England.

Habinteg Housing Association, a social housing provider, estimates 104,000 people in England are on local authority waiting lists for an accessible or adaptable home.

Freedom of Information data suggests a further 20,000 people are waiting for fully wheelchair-accessible homes.

And the housing association estimates that at the current rate of building, someone joining a local authority waiting list for a new-build wheelchair-accessible home could have to wait up to 47 years.

Next, I travel to Chester to meet 16-year-old Finlay. As he shows me his bedroom, his wheelchair gets stuck in the narrow doorway.

The plaster is crumbling from the wall from the many times this has happened before.

With no bathroom on the ground floor of his family home, Finlay has to go to the toilet in the kitchen. Credit: ITV News

"I'm in my bedroom which really should be used for the dining room. It's pretty cramped, I get stuck all the time and I have to ask my mum for help. As you can see - I just got stuck," he said.

His home is clearly not wheelchair-accessible.

They're waiting for a grant from the council to adapt it, but in the meantime, with no downstairs bathroom, Finlay has to go to the toilet in the kitchen.

"This is my commode that I have to use to go to the bathroom, it's not ideal for a 16-year-old boy to be using it.

"It's a bit embarrassing because I wish I could just go to my bathroom down here, but I can't because the house is not adapted.

"Everybody has the right to get the stuff that we want to get, but it's taking it's time and it should've been done by now."

A spokesperson for Cheshire West and Chester Council said: "Cheshire West and Chester Council works with many families in our borough to help them adapt their homes so that disabled family members can live more comfortable lives.

"Using funding from the Disabled Facilities Grant, we ensure their properties are converted in a way that meets their long-term needs."

Council officers have been in regular contact with the family to discuss how their home can be adapted."

Mike Nevin, 61, has now managed to get a home that meets his needs, but he had to go to extreme lengths.

The length of the country, in fact, 300 miles - from Somerset to Hartlepool.

"It wasn't like we woke up one day and thought let's move from this lovely area that we live in and let's go to another part of the country, we had to move," he said.

"It was almost like having your arm ripped off and we still feel the loss of moving from that area."

To meet his needs Mike's bed was placed in the living room at his previous house in Somerset. Credit: Mike Nevin

Somerset West and Taunton Council admit, like in many parts of the country, demand outstrips supply.

Mike was on a waiting list there for three years before he managed to find his current property in the north-east.

"The first few months were totally life-changing. I've not been upstairs in a house for years.

"That might not seem like much to you, if you're on your feet, but being able to go upstairs in a house, let me tell you that is brilliant, it is absolutely life-changing. We are so fortunate to find an accessible house, it's a shocking fact that others can't, everyone should have an accessible house."

'Everyone should have an accessible house'

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “It is vital disabled people are able to adapt and improve their homes, which is why we have given councils £4.8 billion to deliver half a million adaptions since 2010.

“We are also boosting the supply of accessible homes across the country so people can live independently and will change building regulations to ensure more newbuilds are accessible. Local councils have responsibility for waiting lists.”

The planned changes in building regulations should increase the proportion of accessible and adaptable new homes.

But in the meantime, many people like Ash are left struggling, physically and mentally.