Army veteran promised accessible social housing after 10 years on Bridgend waiting list

Article by ITV Wales Journalist Zaynub Akbar

An army veteran has described having to wait for 10 years for a fully accessible property to become available on the social housing waiting list.

Tom Weaver, 58, has been offered unsuitable accommodation multiple times over the past decade, but was finally offered a newly-built bungalow in Bridgend back in February 2022.

Shortly after, he got rid of most of his furniture and packed up his belongings, but another long delay was to come.

Due to planning permission issues, there was a period of eight months where Tom felt stuck - his landlord, who wanted to sell and who he has a healthy relationship with, issued him with a Section 21 eviction notice and later a repossession order on the house, to help move the process along.

Looking back at that time, Tom explained: "I was so worried. Anybody facing eviction, if they're disabled or not, it's always a terrible time for them."

Whilst Tom welcomes the move from his current three-bedroom house, it wasn't a smooth process.

Tom was promised the new bungalow back in February 2022 - living out of boxes ever since.

In June 2012, the army veteran suffered a brain haemorrhage while driving down the M4 with his partner, Helen, and young son. He was left hemiplegic within 20 minutes. Today, Tom is semi-paralysed, half blind in each eye and wheelchair-dependant.

When it comes to the need for accessible housing, he explained: "Over the 10 years, I've been offered three ground-floor flats - one of them I couldn't get into the bedroom or the kitchen, another one I couldn't get into the bathroom or the bedrooms, and the third one had a bath and the worktops were too high.

"And when you go to it, it makes you feel really more disabled because it brings home how disabled you are."

In his current home, a temporary ramp has been added to the kitchen step, but it has been deemed as "dangerous" - with Tom once hitting the wall and falling out of his wheelchair whilst using it. It means he must eat all of his meals alone next to the kettle on the kitchen counter top, because he cannot carry the plate whilst moving the wheelchair up the ramp.

ITV Wales Journalist Zaynub Akbar investigates the issue of accessible housing

Despite the situation, Tom said he is thankful for the work done by his Housing Officer and the council, but emphasised that change needs to come from the top.

"Inaccessible housing is a national issue across the whole of Wales. Unfortunately you just have to grin and bear it [the wait]. There's no magic solution and there won't be a magic solution to it until it's nationally tackled", he said.

Tom served in the army from the age of 16 to 25-years-old. He maintains a positive outlook on life and is grateful to his support network including, family, friends and neighbours, adding: "My first big goal was to spend one night in the house by myself and now I live by myself.

"I'll never be fully independent, but I'm 80%, 70% independent which is the best I could hope for", he added.

Tom's new bungalow was funded by the Welsh Government through a grant given to Linc Cymru - it's one of two properties that have been built which are fully wheelchair-adapted.

Looking forward to the move, Tom explained: "I'm lucky enough that this bungalow has come up, otherwise I'd face being evicted and put in emergency accommodation.

"It's a national issue across the whole of Wales and the Welsh Government should put down legislation that when Housing Association is building a new estate, that they must have proper wheelchair-adapted accommodation as part of their planning permission."

Taking Tom's question to the Housing Minister, Julie James MS responded: "We've just changed the way we do adaptations to our homes. We've taken away the means testing for adaptations for medium-sized ones and we've enabled our local authorities with much bigger grants to do the adaptations more quickly.

"So we're very, very keen that people do get the adaptations they need to the housing, so that they can you know have access to them. Also then, that when we build new, we build houses that are level, that have wide doorways."

Cllr Rhys Goode, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future generations who is also responsible for housing, said: "Our excellent housing team within the Council provides as much support as possible to enable all our disabled residents to live full lives.

"We continue to work to ensure that the housing providers we work with are meeting their responsibilities in providing appropriate accommodation and adaptions to residents."