'Callous' saving splits up couple

Matthew Beard
Friday 08 November 2002 01:00

A social services department forced an elderly couple who had spent hardly a night apart in 60 years of marriage into separate nursing homes.

Gordon and Nora Watts, from Banbury, Oxfordshire, were sent to homes 20 miles apart to help Oxfordshire County Council keep down costs. Mrs Watts, 83, was placed in a home in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, when her husband Gordon, 88, went into hospital last August. Mr Watts was then sent to a home in Culworth just over the border in Northamptonshire.

Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, condemned the council's decision, saying: "This is yet another example of the miserable state of funding in our social services and we must seriously question the values of the local authority and the Government for allowing such a callous act to happen. It is tantamount to the days of the 19th-century workhouses and akin to mental cruelty."

Mrs Watts, said: "It's very upsetting when you've been together for 60 years. It's a long time, isn't it? And it's very painful to be apart right now. My husband is everything to me."

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said: "We understand the difficulties that the family has been facing through being separated. Every decision of social and health care is made more difficult by serious underfunding nationally. There's simply not enough money to do everything"

Following publicity about the story, the council last night agreed Mrs Watts could be moved to her husband's home, saying: "Once we became aware of the plight of the couple we did all we could to find the funds."

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