A RETIRED milkman claims he hasn’t had a bath or shower for two years due to council delays in installing a shower in his flat.
Michael Davey, who has arthritis and other health issues, can just about get upstairs but can no longer use the tub and relies on bed baths from his wife Stella.
In 2020, the dad-of-two asked Southampton City Council to fit a shower in the bathroom so he could wash comfortably at home.
But two years later and no work has been carried out.
Michael, 56, who lives in the Weston area of the city, said: “I was told I’d have to move to another property before any internal adaptations would take place, but none of the homes I viewed online were suitable for a disabled person.
“I haven’t had a shower or bath in two years. I feel I’ve been ignored by the council.”
Improvements to properties occupied by people with mobility issues are often funded by a Disabled Facilities Grant.
People, like Michael, applying for these means-tested grants to fund improvements to their homes must first have their needs assessed by an occupational therapist.
According to a report released today by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), Southampton is one of 10 council areas in England and Wales where disabled people wait on average more than a year before they can submit an application.
Applicants can then wait a further 18 months for the work to be done.
Fazilet Hadi, of Disability Rights UK, said disabled people often found it difficult to complete simple everyday actions that others took for granted.
“It’s critical that councils keep this at the front of their minds when telling disabled people there is a wait of months for adaptations,” he said.
A Southampton City Council spokesperson today cited the high demand for alterations to properties for the delays.
They added: “Long waits can often be due to special or complex situations but we aim to deal with critical cases within four weeks.
“The council (is) working very hard and pushing to reduce waiting times where possible.
“The pandemic has added additional pressures with increased staff absences and home visits restricted so we could protect the people we work with, causing delays to assessments, approvals and completion of works.”
The spokesperson insisted the delays were starting to ease, though declined to disclose how many people are on the waiting list.
A report published in 2016 said the means-tested grants had helped more than 40,000 people a year to live in more accessible housing since its inception in 1989.
But before someone can apply for funding, their needs must be assessed by an occupational therapist.
‘I FEEL LIKE I’VE BEEN IGNORED’
The BIJ says thousands of disabled people across the UK are waiting months to be assessed – and years to get the work done.
On this, a Southampton City Council spokesperson said: “Disabled Facilities Grant cases are often complex and the time taken from initial application to approval and subsequent completion will vary considerably depending on the scale of the works and the needs of the individual.
“Additional resources are being recruited across the teams and a large-scale service review is underway to identify improvements to service delivery.”
Campaigners are calling for a sharp increase in the provision of purpose-built housing for the disabled.
Shelter and other organisations say tens of thousands of disabled people typically spend months, if not years, on council house waiting lists.
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “We recognise the importance of improving accessibility, and the number of accessible homes has nearly doubled in a decade.
“Councils are best placed to decide how much accessible housing is needed in their area and they should reflect this in their plans for future development.”
But even when disabled people are allocated a home they can face lengthy waits for the property to be adapted.
Disability charity Leonard Cheshire says people in two thirds of English council areas wait longer than a year.
People in a quarter of council areas wait for more than two years.