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BRENTWOOD: Scandal of disabled couple isolated in their home

January 21, 2009 9:06 AM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in Brentwood Gazette

TODAY the Gazette exposes the scandal of how "shoddy care" by Essex social services is isolating a disabled couple in their own home, placing them in a "life or death situation".

In the latest distressing incident, wheelchair-bound pensioner Terry Tucker was stranded in his bed for eight days before social services fixed the hoist which lifts him in and out of bed, during which time the house became filled with smoke from a faulty oven.

When the fire service arrived they struggled to evacuate not only Terry but also his wife Madge, who cannot leave the house without assistance because the correct ramps have not been installed at the front or back doors.

Firefighters were so concerned about the couple's accessibility and the width of their doors, they referred the matter to Brentwood council's housing department, which owns the house.

Speaking to the Gazette from his Pilgrims Hatch home, Terry said: "I am not happy - I couldn't do anything.

"It makes you feel so down."

Though Terry received visits from dedicated carers during the daytime, Madge was unable to even carry him a cup of tea between visits due to being wheelchair-bound herself. She said the couple felt neglected.

"We are really fed up - nobody cares if he was in the bed or the chair or anything."

The couple say they have been left to sleep in their wheelchairs on more than one occasion when no-one came for their evening visit and that, due to the restricted working hours of their carers, Terry has to go to bed at 8pm most nights and often not helped up for 12 hours.

The high cupboards, work tops and stacked fridge freezer in their kitchen also make simple tasks not only difficult, but dangerous.

Ward councillor Barry Aspinell has been trying to get improvements around their home for more than a year and has slammed Essex social services, saying: "I think it's a disgrace that people living in 2009 are having to put up with this sort of shoddy care.

"It's as if they are second-class citizens and they don't deserve the same sort of benefits we all enjoy.

"It's horrendous the fact that social services still has not done anything."

"This could have been a life and death situation," he added. "I'm an ex-fireman and I was horrified when Madge told me - I know that smoke kills more than fire."

Though Brentwood council own the Tuckers' house, the responsibility for improvements lies with Essex social service's occupational therapy department.

The couple, who receive four social care visits a day, are desperate for independence.

"I've never said we can't do things - we have a go and I have always tried to do things," said Madge.

A spokesman for Essex County Council responded: "The health and welfare of our vulnerable residents is our top priority and we take issues of this kind very seriously.

"In all cases like this, the council works very closely with families and other partners to resolve any difficulties as soon as possible and ensure that our residents receive the care packages they deserve."