Bobby, Disability, and the Housing Crisis

This is a post about disability and the housing crisis, and it intersects with LGBT rights.

I know there’s an election coming up. And I know the personal is political etc. But this is personal. So I’m going to talk about Bobby and not the political landscape that constrains him.

I remember meeting Bobby in Brighton.

He is kind, friendly, serious and a good laugh. I know everyone says this sort of thing about people when things do not go so well for someone they know, but Bobby was warm enough that I happened to wonder how he was doing this week, and look him up on Facebook again.

I was genuinely shocked.

Not to find that he had become severely disabled – whether we like it or not this could happen to us all. But to see how the very people and services that should have supported him seem to have put him at arms’ length.

From what I can gather, Bobby has use of one arm and no use of his legs. He is paraplegic. Yet Brighton and Hove City Council have left him in an attic flat with doors not wide enough for wheelchair access.

His frankly heroic eighteen-year old carer is forced to drag him around under the arms to meet his basic continence, washing and other needs. I can see clearly that these manoeuvres break every manual handling rule I know. I wouldn’t even consider attempting them in the hospital I work in where we have proper equipment and resources. But what else can they do? Leaving Bobby in this state would amount to neglect.

He has been offered alternative housing, which seems to get Brighton and Hove City Council off the hook. But Caroline Lucas has declared this housing not fit for purpose. As have Bobby’s doctors, who will not provide treatments that could improve his condition because his housing and handling at present do not make them viable.

Bobby, like another person I know, had to face the indignity of crowd-funding his own wheelchair (which he still cannot fully benefit from due to the narrow doorways in his flat). Paraplegia (Bobby), or advanced cancer, allegedly do not merit the provision of proper resources.

I say indignity not just in terms of finance, but because both have been forced to use their pain and suffering as a tool to beg for basic rights that should have been freely given. Nobody should have to broadcast their abject situation to have their basic needs met.

Bobby needs a decent lawyer to challenge Brighton and Hove City Council. But he can’t find one.

I know this is tenuous, but I am asking if any of you have any ideas?

I will finish with a political comment. Which is that solidarity between causes is more powerful and humanistic than single issue politics. Anyone who has faced any kind of discrimination or poor treatment, or anyone with any fellow feeling for another human, should at least stop and pause to think about something that could happen to any of us should we suffer an accident or find ourselves with ill health.

The following are links to a short ITV news video outlining Bobby’s situation, and a Facebook group he has founded to draw attention to his own and wider disabled people’s rights.

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