Elderly and disabled residents feel like 'prisoners' in their flats at Clarion housing block

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

Elderly and vulnerable residents living in a sheltered accommodation block, managed by the UK's largest housing association, have described feeling like 'prisoners' after enduring weeks of stress over broken down lifts.

Clarion, who are responsible for Marten House in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, have apologised to residents while acknowledging the issues with the two lifts have been going on for longer than residents expected.

The situation has left those living in the block worried about leaving their homes because of the uncertainty of whether they'll be able to make it back upstairs.

Joseph Kilmurray lives on the first floor but he cannot use the stairs because of mobility issues caused by gangrene.

Joseph Kilmurray lives on the first floor of Marten House and requires a lift to get around freely Credit: ITV News Meridian

The 76-year old says he's once stayed inside his flat for several days in fear of being trapped outside.

"People are scared to go outside in case they go to town and the lifts are broken. They can't get upstairs and they got to sit downstairs until it's fixed.

"It makes you feel very, very down in yourself. You sit in your room and you know, you get so fed up.

"It's getting worse now and, you get told, it's not working and then it's working and then it's not."

The two lifts at Marten House in Burgess Hill Credit: ITV News Meridian

When ITV News first filmed at Marten House one out of two lifts was in operation but the second later broke down.

Melvin Leaney who is another disabled resident on the first floor is pleading with the company to resolve the issues.

"I was just going out for a tea and it just broke down again. It's frustrating because my flat is on the first floor and I won't be able to get back from my cup of tea.

"I would like something to be done please. I don't like feeling like a prisoner I want fresh air in my lungs."

Melvin Leaney describes his frustration with the situation:

Disabled Rights UK said the situation is 'completely unacceptable'.

The charity's Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: "We all need to be able to leave and return to our homes without anxiety about whether this would be possible.

"The Housing Association has duties under the Equality Act to anticipate the needs of disabled residents and to make reasonable adjustments. In this case this might mean, increasing the number of checks on the lifts and improving maintenance.  

"The Housing Association needs to share and discuss with residents what plans are in place to ensure that the lifts are always working and to agree contingency plans if they’re not."

Marten House is managed by Clarion Credit: ITV News Meridian

A spokesperson for Clarion Housing Group said, "We are very sorry for the situation at Marten House and apologise to all the residents who have been affected.

"Our engineers have been doing everything possible to fix the lifts, but it has been a complex case and we appreciate it has taken far longer to resolve than we hoped.

"Our engineers have been on site again today (Monday 5th September) and as it stands one lift is operational.

"We appreciate there have been regular breakdowns in the last few days and we are determined to provide a longer term solution. For now, we are providing additional 24-hour support to closely monitor the situation.

"Our housing team have been working closely with the care provider and the local council to ensure our vulnerable residents have been supported through this. We are working to identify a longer term solution and will continue to keep residents and the local council updated."

Residents have received letters from Clarion explaining about the faults Credit: ITV News Meridian

On Monday, letters were received by residents in the housing block explaining the problems.

"We're pleased to advise that the left hand lift is back in full operation following repairs carried out on Friday to the hydraulics", the letter read.

"We're sorry the lift went out of service again in the evening due to an unrelated fault. An engineer replaced the air cord on the lift door on Friday evening and returned the lift to full service.

"We will continue to monitor the lift and assure you that this site remains as a priority with the contractor."

Repairs to the second lift could take a further three weeks as Clarion awaits the arrival of a new lift drive although the company said it is trying to bring this time forward.

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said: "The landlord, Clarion Housing, has informed us that one of the lifts at Marten House has been repaired and is back in full operation.

"We will continue to work closely with the landlord and onsite care provider All Care to ensure the remaining lift repairs are carried out and appropriate safeguarding measures are in place so that residents can safely exit the premises when required.

"The wellbeing and safety of people living in West Sussex remains our top priority. We will continue to work closely with the providers to make sure the support needs of residents are met, and that the necessary lift repairs are carried out as soon as possible."

ITV News Correspondent Daniel Hewitt has previously reported on the dire conditions some Clarion Housing tenants had to live in:

In May, the housing secretary Michael Gove fiercely criticised Clarion, for not meeting "fundamental housing standards".

Last year an ITV News investigation found Clarion tenants living in squalid conditions on one of its biggest housing estates in Merton, South London.

The landlord carried out over 500 repairs on the Eastfields estate following our expose and apologised to tenants, but insisted it was an isolated case.

At the time, In a statement Clarion's Clare Miller said:

"We can confirm we have received a letter from the secretary of state, relating to the ombudsman ruling, where we failed to provide the service our residents have a right to expect.

"As chief executive of Clarion Housing Group, I will never shirk our responsibility to provide and maintain good quality homes.“

"We have not got every decision right as an organisation, but we are making good progress and recently published a detailed update on the actions we have taken to significantly improve our service.

"There is no quick fix to the housing crisis and the UK has some of the oldest housing stock in the world."