It's not just David Weir. A chronic shortage of social housing is making life hell for thousands of people with disabilities

Press involvement has missed the big story in this scandal

Share
Related Topics

The story of multiple gold medal winning Paralympic athlete David Weir and the upstairs loo provides us with a depressingly familiar narrative. 

Callous and unbelievably stupid British bureaucracy cheerfully exploits Weir’s celebrity for PR purposes - and the naming of local leisure centres - but when it comes to providing accommodation so he doesn’t have to risk injury by using his arms to drag himself upstairs to the bathroom? Sorry old boy, that’d be favouritism. 

Enter the press, and a rapid U turn is the apparent result. Having been in exactly his position - I was reduced to using a commode for a while and it wasn’t a happy time - I can understand the issue only too well. So I’m glad that it’s getting fixed. 

But here’s my problem with the story: The focus on crass officialdom meant that it rather missed an important point that Weir’s fiancee made. She said she understood that there was a “huge demand for housing”. The shame is so few in power seem to understand this and the problems it creates.

Because Weir is not the only one in the unpleasant position of being a disabled person in hopelessly unsuitable accommodation.

I remember being taken back from hospital by ambulance, chatting to the drivers along the way. They’d tell me of many similar stories. One horrid example was of mobility impaired people in second or third floor flats accessible only by stairs, who never got out as a result and had to be bodily carried into and out of their homes by the ambulance drivers to get to medical appointments. Which were just about the only time they got out of those homes. Imagine how that feels.

The cause of the problem is simple: A chronic shortage of suitable social housing, particularly in London and and the South East where demand is at its peak. That’s where Weir’s story had its genesis. It’s also the cause of the back problems suffered by the ambulance staff, and the imprisonment of the poor people they told me about in their homes.

This issue goes beyond the disabled. It impacts upon the elderly too, and the young. In fact it affects anyone lacking the means to get on the housing ladder or for whom private rented accommodation is either unsuitable, or financially out of reach.

Weir being left hauling himself up his stairs with his arms, risking injury as a result, which would cost the health service far more to treat than simply finding him somewhere suitable, is only the tip of a very large iceberg created by the sale of council housing in the 1980s and the failure to adequately replenish the supply.

We like the narrative of his story because it exposes bumbling bureaucrats, who get a much needed turn in the publicity stocks, before performing a volte face which makes us feel good: The gold medal winning hero gets justice. Score one for public pressure and the press. 

And then it’s on to the next story and we forget about the thousands of other David Weirs who are battling against similar circumstances but who can’t call upon the press for help.

Now Weir’s problem has rightly been dealt with we would to do remember them and make a similar fuss on their behalf. Otherwise we’ll be here again.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform