'I feel broken’ - Basingstoke mum-of-three waits nine years for a wheelchair accessible home
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A disabled woman from Basingstoke has described how living in an inaccessible housing association property has left her feeling "broken".
Rosey Sparham says she's been on the local authority waiting list for nine years, but is yet to be offered a suitable home because one of an appropriate size for her family isn't available.
48-year old Rosey has fibromyalgia, a condition which causes her chronic pain and limits her mobility.
Struggling up the front steps of her three-bedroom home is a regular reminder of how the place she's lived in for over twenty years, no longer meets her needs.
Rosey relies on her husband or three children to help her get around.
She has to sleep downstairs while her powered wheelchair charges outside in a damp shed.
She says: “I feel broken.
"I feel that I’m not able to do what I should be able to do.
"The pain is so bad sometimes I can’t move, and that gets me very frustrated, then it gets me very down and low, because I feel I have to rely on somebody, or one of the children, to help me”.
Husband Mark is Rosey's full-time carer, and getting up the stairs to have a shower is a long and painful process.
Without her wheelchair or an adapted kitchen, cooking or making herself a hot drink is impossible.
Rosey says that she's been told that fitting a wet room or stairlift is not viable as they are looking to move to bigger and better accommodation more suited to family life.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council said they were unable to comment on individual cases.
However, they added: “We will prioritise households needing adaptations for any suitably adapted properties that are available.
“Where new adaptions are needed, as assessed by an occupational therapist, we provide advice on what properties would be most suitable.
“Housing associations manage adaptions needed in their properties but the council is involved in assessing whether someone can be given a disabled facilities grant, where the application is supported by an occupational therapist.
“In the last three years the council has approved 460 applications for a disabled facilities grants, totalling over £3.5 million of support to residents.”
Rosey's housing association Vivid say they know that alternative options have been discussed with Rosey and they aren't aware of a request for major adaptations.
They added that although they understand she’s in the top band of the council's waiting list, four-bedroom houses like the one Rosey wants don’t come up very often.
Thirty miles away in Romsey, disability inclusion specialist Michael Grimmett is one of the lucky ones. He lives in a flat that helps him to maximise his independence after waiting for only a year.
He was able to influence the design of his house, right down to room size.
Michael, who has cerebral palsy and is a full-time wheelchair user, can get in the flat independently. He can even turn the lights on and off just by using his voice.
Michael said: "Everybody needs their own chance to mature and leave the family home. Disabled people also need to have that right.
“Then your family become your family and not your carers and I think that’s a big thing for disabled people to have.”
Not having to rely on her family for support is one of the things Rosey is most looking forward to.
She says: "To have my freedom back a little bit would be a miracle.
"To be able to go into the kitchen freely, put the kettle on, make a drink, or just to go upstairs by myself, would just be amazing… I’d like to try to get some of my independence back for me."
The results of a government consultation could give a lifeline to thousands of families like Rosey’s.
What does the government say?
In July 2022, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) announced their intention to require all new-build homes to meet certain accessibility standards.
A spokesperson for the department said: “Everyone deserves a home that meets their needs, which is why we are in the process of making it mandatory for all new homes to be built with higher accessibility standards including better step-free access, wider doorways and clearer access routes.
“Waiting lists for social housing have decreased 36% in the last ten years and we are working closely with councils to further improve them.
"Meanwhile our affordable homes programme continues to deliver thousands of new homes every year, all of which will soon have to meet higher accessibility requirements.”
Habinteg are a housing association which specialises in building accessible homes.
Their CEO Nick Apetroaie is delighted with the government's decision to make new builds more accessible, but wants them to provide information on when exactly these new standards will be implemented.
He added: "We know that it doesn't cost that much if you build those features when you build the home. It's a lot more expensive to retrofit it.
Although the change would vastly increase the number of properties with important access features, it won’t necessarily mean more people can benefit from fully wheelchair accessible homes like Michael’s.
Even so, the planned legislation has been broadly welcomed by campaigners for accessible housing as a step in the right direction.
Rosey and many like her will be watching developments with interest.
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