"Unfortunately it is against Salix policy to fit a through floor lift and that should you wish to consider moving to a more suitable accommodation..."
Thomas West is perplexed because, during the time of the vote to transfer Salford Council housing to Salix Homes, he saw all the glossy leaflets stating that, if the housing association was successful, there would be proper investment in homes – just not his home it seems...
Thomas, who lives in Weaste, has had polio since being three months old, and now has post-polio syndrome, which accelerates the aging process. To compound matters, he had a fall, broke his 'good' left leg and has been in a wheelchair ever since.
"Post-polio syndrome makes you weak in your muscles and joints, and I was finding it difficult getting out of bed, getting off the toilet and out of my stairlift" he recalls "After an assessment, I got a raised bed and toilet and the stairlift was replaced...but it was an inch lower than the one they took out so I couldn't get out of it."
Eventually, the problem was solved, except that it was always breaking down and parts for the stairlift were obsolete, so engineers were patching it together however they could. They told Thomas to press a re-set button at the back of his seat if it broke down again...
"On each journey I had to do that but, with me being in a wheelchair and using a zimmer, I couldn't do it; so I was trapped upstairs for three months" he recalls.
As all this was going on, Salford City Council's Community Occupational Therapy Services recommended an alternative solution – a vertical through lift, which would go from downstairs to upstairs and vice versa.
Indeed a letter from Salix to Thomas, seen by the Salford Star, makes reference to the Council report that, should a stairlift not work, "a through floor lift or moving to ground floor accommodation would be the only suitable option..."
The letter then adds "unfortunately it is against Salix policy to fit a through floor lift and that should you wish to consider moving to a more suitable accommodation we would strenuously help and support in assisting you through this process."
While Salix has a policy of not fitting through floor lifts, back in the days before ALMOs and private housing associations, Salford Council certainly used to fit them. Manchester City Council confirmed this afternoon that they still do fit the lifts, on an individual case-by-case basis.
As far as costs go, the amount spent by Salix on the stairlift and various replacements and engineer call-outs would probably roughly amount to the same as fitting a vertical lift.
Thomas believes that the Salix policy is more about the reduction in value of the house as a consequence of fitting a lift. Yet, with Salix and the Council receiving rent for thirty years, the house has already been paid for many times over.
In the event, Salix cocked up the existing stairlift using parts from another one, and while it is working for time being, Thomas says he's lost faith and rarely uses it, preferring to stay upstairs. He fears that if it breaks down again he will be forced to move elsewhere.
"I had Salix telling me that I need to look for other properties to move into, and it's really scaring me" he says "I'm 68 years old next year, I've lived here for thirty years and don't want to move. I'm happy with my neighbours and happy where I live in Weaste.
"I've spent a lot of money on the house and the garden" he adds "All this just brings me to tears. I've even seen a doctor about it who offered anti-depressants but I don't want that, I just want to stay here."
The Salford Star asked Salix Homes...
Why is it Salix policy not to fit through floor lifts when, apparently, Manchester housing companies don't have a problem with this?
When the tenant was stuck upstairs for three months why wasn't this considered as an option?
Can you assure him that he will be able to remain in his property where he has lived for over thirty years?
Salix Homes responded: "We have been working with Mr West and other agencies since the issue was brought to our attention to identify a solution that meets Mr West's requirements. We will continue to work with Mr West to provide assistance."