A DISABLED man who weighs 28-stone has blasted his housing association after they refused to widen his back door so he could get out if there was a fire.
Darren Burns, 48, is obese due to a life-long hip disorder that affects mobility and has suffered from arthritis since the age of 13.
His condition worsened when he was involved in a car crash two-and-a-half years ago, leaving him wheelchair-bound and his weight gain subsequently snowballed to over 28 stone.
He returned to Cleethorpes, Lincs, after being made homeless and moved into his current property in March last year.
Lincolnshire Housing Partnership (LHP), which owns the property, widened the front and interior doors to help make the house more accessible, as well as making other adjustments to bring the bungalow up-to-date.
The back door, however, remains inaccessible because it hasn’t been altered meaning that Darren can’t get out to sit in his garden.
He claims it has sent him into a deep state of anxiety and depression and he is worried that, if there’s a fire, he’ll be trapped inside his own home.
But LHP say they carried out their own formal independent investigation and came to the conclusion that it was unnecessary to make adjustments to the rear of the property.
‘ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION’
Darren said: “It turns out that the authority says they’re only responsible to provide one exit. However, some people get two. It’s like a lottery.
“If there’s a fire at the front of the house and that is blocked, the fire service said they’d have difficulty getting me out because I’m a big guy.
“They made the house 90 per cent perfect but what they didn’t do was a door entry system and I’m doubly incontinent so if I need to let someone in of a night I might not be in the best state.
“I don’t want everyone having keys and having a key box frightens the life out of me because they’re not impenetrable. I have anxiety so I would never sleep again.”
Darren is trying to desperately lose weight and says he’s lost 50 pounds since taking medication to treat his diabetes after he was diagnosed last year.
He says all he wants to do is to be able to enjoy his own back garden and not be a prisoner in his own home as he tries to get his social life back on track.
“I’ve been anxious about this on top of my usual anxiety and depression,” he said.
“Anywhere I’ve ever lived I’ve been able to get out into the yard and when you’re not very able it’s nice to get outside. I could even put a coat on in winter and go outside and sit with a cup of coffee while watching the birds if I wanted to.
“I’ve been denied that privilege, if you want to call it that, for the last two years.
“As a disabled person I’ve lived for two years with this level of distress in this property and I wouldn’t have taken it had I known that this was the case.”
He feels he’s being discriminated because of his weight and admits that, if he had another disability, he may be given a higher priority.
As a disabled person I’ve lived for two years with this level of distress in this property and I wouldn’t have taken it had I known that this was the case
Disabled Darren Burns
His anxiety makes it difficult to leave the house but Darren, who is unemployed, says his depression isn’t being helped by not being able to get fresh air.
A spokesperson from LHP said: “Since being made aware of the customer’s concerns, the Lincolnshire Housing Partnership (LHP) team, which was Shoreline Housing Partnership initially, has worked extensively to meet their needs, something that we would do for any individual with specific housing requirements.
“Once a suitable property was identified, a process was followed to ensure the necessary work was identified and carried out – this involves recommendations from an Occupational Therapist, who is not employed by LHP, and the awarding of a North East Lincolnshire Disabilities Facilities Grant, (DFG).
“The work that was formally approved and funded by the DFG was kitchen and bathroom adaptation with the creation of a wet room, and the widening of the front door and internal doors.
“These adaptations were agreed with the customer. However, on their completion they issued a formal complaint, on the basis that two other actions had been verbally agreed but were not carried out – these being the installation of a specific door entry system and the widening of an external rear door.
“LHP decided to launch its own formal independent investigation to ensure that its course of action and action of staff were satisfactory, and this was carried out by a highly experienced independent assessor.
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“A further independent fire safety assessment has also been carried out to address the customer’s concerns regarding fire safety; in particular the rear access and again no further adaptions were identified as necessary.
“With regards to the door entry system: a system that is widely used by LHP was offered to the customer, but they deemed it not to be satisfactory for their specific needs. In such cases, LHP is happy for customers to make their own individual arrangements.
“We value all our customer feedback, and aim to support all our customers, particularly those with disabilities, to ensure that they have a home that is suitable for their needs.”
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