Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two year wait for a stairlift

ELDERLY and disabled people are being forced to wait in misery for up to two years for crucial adaptations to their Sheffield homes, it was claimed today.

Pensioner Peggy Drury, of Mosborough, claims she suffered the indignity of being forced to crawl upstairs to go the toilet after being told she must wait up to two years for a stairlift.

The great grandmother, aged 71, who has had a knee replaced and also suffers from arthritis and breathlessness, said: "I was told it would be three months before somebody from the council could come to see me, a further three months before a decision was made on whether they would pay for me to have a stairlift, then up to 18 months before it was fitted.

"My family clubbed together to buy me one instead, which cost £4,400. That was a special price – it would normally have cost £5,500. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed that my relatives had to do it."

Peggy's MP Clive Betts said another constituent, a man in his 90s, was forced to strip wash while waiting for a new shower.

Mr Betts said: "Strip washing and crawling up the stairs are not ways to treat elderly people. There are lots of people out there and the waits have been getting longer."

Mr Betts, who represents Attercliffe, said delays could be cut using an unexpected £2.4 million handed to Sheffield Council's new Liberal Democrat administration following an underspend by the local NHS on pensioners and disabled patients.

But it has refused calls by opposition Labour councillors for the money to be spent on the old and infirm, which could have cut delays for adaptations.

Instead, it is going into a general pot.

Mrs Drury said she thought the windfall should "definitely" be allocated to improve elderly and disabled services.

Mr Betts admitted delays built up under the previous Labour administration but stressed "the difference now is there is an unallocated sum of money" to tackle the problem.

Mr Betts has proposed an Early Day Motion in Parliament which condemns the Lib Dems' stance. He was signed by Brightside MP David Blunkett, Sheffield Central MP Richard Caborn and Hillsborough MP Angela Smith.

Coun Simon Clement-Jones, Lib Dem cabinet member for finance, said: "The council has many financial pressures. To ringfence this money would be wrong."