It was just over two weeks ago when both lifts for the odd and even floors at Cannon Hussey Court on the Islington estate were broken and disabled tenant, Tahira Chakotai, or TJ, needed to leave his 14th floor flat to get to a hospital appointment. Trapped and unable to use his mobility scooter, he had to walk down 28 flights of stairs.
After the hospital appointment in the morning, TJ came back to Canon Hussey only to find the lift was still out of order, and, still without the scooter, needed to go out again to the post office to pay urgent bills. At the block he met his secondary support carer and disability advocate, Sharon Hooley, who takes up the story...
"I was seriously concerned as I know that TJ's doctor has told him not to even walk fifty metres a week" she explains "Normally he would use a scooter to help him get around so I immediately said I would go with him.
"On arriving at Canon Hussey Court, TJ was in so much pain" she says "I could see it in his eyes. His legs were so obviously swollen. He'd taken extra medication to try and cope with the situation so he wasn't his normal self. I saw the lifts and sure enough it was scrolling 'Out Of Order on 14th Floor'. TJ told me the doors to the lift were stuck open.
"While there, several people came by and I saw one woman pushing a pram, a lady with Cerebral Palsy and a couple more guys who obviously had some mobility problems by the way they walked" she explains "We took our time getting to the post office and then TJ said he had just enough money to get back in a taxi. By the time we got back to Canon Hussey Court, TJ was almost at the point of tears. I felt so helpless, and even suggested I call an ambulance he was so bad."
Instead, TJ called the paramedics who carried him back up the 28 flights of stairs on a stretcher.
"They are forcing a vulnerable man to suffer far too much" says Sharon "It kills me inside when I see the rubbish he has to deal with. Even the front doors are more or less useless when TJ tries to get his scooter or wheelchair out of the building."
Indeed, the Salford Star witnessed the `automatic' outer and inner disability doors of Canon Hussey not closing or opening properly, which means either disabled tenants can't get out of the block or the doors remain open, meaning anyone can walk in from the street without a fob, particularly since caretakers were removed from the building. Both the lifts and the doors have been a constant problem for all tenants of the block...
"The lift is like a roulette wheel and the trouble is that when you use a mobility scooter you never know when the lift is going to work and when it doesn't" TJ explains "So you can either get down in the lift and then be stuck on the ground floor when it breaks down, or you can't get out of your flat and go down because the lift is jammed on the ground floor. When that happens I'm isolated and stuck in my property because my support worker is not insured to carry me or support me down anywhere between two and 28 flights of stairs.
"The disabled access doors were fitted in 2013 because the block didn't meet DDA [Disability Discrimination Act] standards but they have never worked properly since they were fitted" he adds "They either slam against you, so even if you get downstairs in a lift that rarely works, you can't get through the door; and if the wind blows against the outer self opening door you definitely can't get out. So if you are a disabled adult in a wheelchair or mobility scooter you are isolated in that block and can't go out."
Indeed, in May, the inner automatic door sensor failed, and slammed right into his scooter as he was passing through, snapping the wing off. But TJ isn't the only `victim'.
"It's saddening to continue living with the lift problems so long after the Decent Homes Standard was poorly delivered to us residents three years ago" says Canon Hussey tenant, Andy Green "In my own experience the challenges faced in accessing our properties are inappropriate and counterproductive to providing the housing standards promised. Sadly Salix think differently to us, as they continue to ignore residents individually and collectively whilst making a mockery of their brand statement `Let's live, grow and thrive together'...
"They seem at ease to continue to ignore residents' requests to make Canon Hussey Court DDA compliant" he insists "I find the lift dirty and smelly at the best of times, which is even more frustrating when trapped in the event of breakdown. You expect when you report lift failure that the landlord would arrange repair. This doesn't always happen, leaving tenants - the same tenants who pay Salix to manage our homes - high and dry, stuck in or stuck out.
"Imagine if someone put 100 steps or more in front of your home regardless of your physical barriers" he adds "It's unnecessary and ignorant of Salix Homes and I hope they feel ashamed of their consistent failures to the people of Salford."
Andy and TJ's points are echoed by another tenant, David Hampshire, who says: "Since I have lived at Canon Hussey Court the internal security door has never worked properly. I have raised this as a concern and every time it's raised another workman is sent, more work is carried out but it's never actually fixed.
"I've also experienced issues with the security service either being a little pedantic and refusing somebody entry to my property because the password had expired a few days previously, or witnessing people entering the property who clearly shouldn't be there."
And another tenant, Digger Mosey, also confirms the problems with the lift... "It does break regularly; luckily I live on the 4th floor and can handle stairs" he says "Never did understand the motto `More than just a place to live' though!"
The problems aren't just confined to Canon Hussey Court. As well as being an advocate for TJ, Sharon Hooley, a disabled wheelchair user, is also a Salix tenant at another building...
"Salix have been making excuses for far too long now, I should know" she says "I'm living in a small two bedroom ground floor flat that is not suitable for proper wheelchair access, and I've been fighting black mould, damp, mice and silver fish. I've already been on the waiting list for over five years for a suitable property. The living conditions of my fellow disabled and vulnerable people in Salford is disgusting. And Salix, well, shame on them."
TJ has passed three tough disability assessments by ATOS - two for ESA and one for DLA - in the last three years. Amongst his other disabilities he has 67% arthritis in his body, not as a result of natural disability but as a result of trying to challenge the Canon Hussey stairs with epilepsy, since 2008 – and falling over one hundred times, leading to sprains and fractures.
His doctor, he says, has sent 17 letters to Salix Homes stating that he should not be walking down stairs. TJ has had three heart attacks and three strokes, and recently had a community care order from Salford Council social services recommending a move. Indeed TJ has been trying to get Salix to relocate him to an appropriate property that suits his disabled needs for years, but has been either offered inappropriate accommodation or been given a refusal based on an `over 55' ruling.
Councillor Paul Dennett, before he became City Mayor, assured TJ that Salix was `considering' its disability policies...
"I just want to assure you that the issue of the City Council's Housing Lettings/ Allocations Policy being Equalities Act compliant has been taken seriously" he wrote "and I've previously received assurance from Salix Homes that this will be considered in the forthcoming review of the Housing Lettings/Allocations Policy..."
That was a few years ago. Nothing has been heard since from the City Mayor. In the meantime, all the Salford City Council housing stock has been transferred to Salix Homes and effectively privatised...
"I wish some others had voted against Salix taking ownership of our properties" says Andy Green "How possibly could any organisation be decided as `The Preferred Option' when they were not competent before the take over?"
The Salford Star asked Salix Homes to comment on the lifts and disability access doors at Canon Hussey but the company refused.
See also previous Salford Star article on the problems at Canon Hussey – click here