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

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

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Clean energy should be our mission to the moon

Martin Rees
Angela Merkel and David Cameron say goodbye in the Bundeskanzleramt after their meeting in Berlin, Germany, 29 May 2015  

The complacency of Europhiles could lose them the referendum

Steve Richards
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral