Disabled council tenant ‘trapped’ in Walthamstow flat

A disabled Waltham Forest resident says he is “trapped” in his council flat living room.

In 2019, Jason Munnings, 41, was a postman and weighed about 95kg, but during the pandemic he developed back problems and now weighs more than 220kg.

The weight, along with back and nerve conditions he suffers from means he needs a roller to walk between rooms in his one-bedroom flat in Walthamstow.

But because the roller does not fit through doorways, Jason relies on carers and his mother to help him wash, cook and clean his home.

A large step at the front door of his ground-floor flat also means he cannot leave the house independently because he cannot access or safely store his scooter.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Mr Munnings said he is “literally trapped” unless he can find a disability-adapted council flat.

However, he said that until recently the council’s housing department has “ignored” his pleas.

During the first lockdown, “everything fell apart” when he lost his job as a postman and could no longer exercise at swimming pools which caused his mental health to deteriorate.

He added: “In the second wave [of the pandemic] my back started to go and the swimming pool stayed closed for nine months.

Five months after approaching the council to ask for disability adaptations to his flat, a care coordinator from the council visited him and ordered a bathing seat and chair to help him wash.

Jason believed he was on a waiting list for a shower adaptation so he could wash at home, but in April this year, council staff told him this was not the case.

The 41-year-old told the LDRS that if he had a home suitable for a mobility scooter, he would be able to travel to an accessible swimming pool which has bathrooms that he can use to wash without the help of carers.

He said: “Having a scooter would change my life, I could be independent and go out then.”

But he claims the council offered him a bathroom adaptation on the condition that he stays at the home for another five years. Jason described the council’s offer as “bullying” since he wouldn’t be able to leave the flat.

He said: “What they’re saying is, that I can be washed but I would have to stay in this home.

“I wouldn’t walk out this house in five years, I would be carried out dead.

“I need a home that is wide enough to walk between rooms with the roller.”

He also questioned whether all the properties on the council’s bidding system for social housing are truly available.

Jason said he tested the system by bidding for a home no one wanted, but no one ever called or emailed him about it.

His mother also visited another property that appeared to be available on the bidding system, but when she knocked on the door the tenant told her she had no plans to move.

His mother Jacqueline said: “I’m just deflated for my son. We have put so much effort in and we’ve crossed every bridge that we can.

“We have tried everything, to no avail, I’ve come up against a brick wall.”

Since he first spoke to the LDRS, the council’s housing team put him in a higher priority for a new home, but he is yet to find somewhere suitable.

Ahsan Khan, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said: “We sympathise with Mr Munnings’ situation, and we are working hard to find a suitable home for him in the local area.

“We understand how important it is for him to be able to enjoy living independently in a property that meets his needs.

“Unfortunately, Mr Munnings’ situation is complex and, although they met the access standards, neither of the two flats that we have so far been able to offer met his individual requirements.

“His case is of the highest priority, and we continue to search for a ground-floor flat with level access and a wet room that meets his needs.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter