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London mum is living in house too small for her two wheelchairs

Kerdesan Gallardo in her wheelchair
Kerdesan Gallardo in her wheelchair Image credit:

Kerdesan Gallardo applied for a spacious council house in 2014, a place she could call home and enough space to accommodate herself, family and her wheelchair.

Seven years on the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington (RMKC) are yet to find her a suitable place.

The mum is currently living in cramped conditions, too small for her husband, two sons and two electric wheelchairs.

Before moving into her London home Gallardo was advised by the council just to have one wheelchair, but she believes her disability means she needs two.

The 42-year-old mother told MyLondon: “They said to me I can’t have two wheelchairs.

“I have to charge one of them for five hours, when I do that no one's going to carry me around in my house, take me to the toilet to feed me or to feed my kids while my husband is at work, he works full time.

"Even if it's an emergency I need to be able to get out, I can't crawl outside. I'm not a cat or a little pet to be carried around, I'm an adult, I'm a mum of two I've got a duty of care for my children and the council's got a duty of care to look after their residents to meet their needs.

“Without it I would be trapped to death, I would be stuffed.

“Because I've got back spine operation, I can't move forward to push manual wheelchairs with two hands.”

Gallardo has been forced to store her second wheelchair in a small room next to a narrow hallway which has led to painful accidents.

“I've been injured, I can't even move my arms because I slipped over when I'm transferring between two wheelchairs,” she explained.

“Those two wheelchairs should have space where it's safe for me to transfer without injuring myself.

“I had to struggle I had to pull one hand to get out [of the wheelchair] and then when I'm transferring I can't stand with my leg.”

According to the council Gallardo was advised to take out her son’s wardrobe to make more room for the wheelchairs. But the boys’ room is small enough as it is, the lads aged seven and 17 share a bunk bed because there is not enough space for two separate beds.

“They said I should not have wardrobes in the kids’ bedroom, they made me buy lots of plastic containers,” Gallardo said.

“Then where do I put the kids’ clothes?

“Where can I put those plastic containers because they cannot be in the room because they would make it even smaller, they didn’t listen to me?

"If you're disabled and you're speaking to them they don't like it

"You have to listen to them or you have to be left trapped and stuffed yourself and dead in the property then they'll say it's our fault but I don't want that to happen to me, but also for them not to treat anyone else how they treat me."

The family are currently living in ‘Category C’ housing, which according to the council’s website is if a “Person requires step-free accommodation with generous corridor widths as may use a standard size or attendant propelled wheelchair, a mobility aid (walking frame) indoors and/or a wheelchair outdoors.

“May be outdoor electric wheelchair / scooter user, but ambulant indoors. May be ambulant and obese and need wider doorways and corridors.”

Gallardo believes they should be living in a house classed as ‘Category A’, where a “Person requires fully wheelchair accessible accommodation to and throughout the property.

“Person may use a large wheelchair and requires more generous space standards for wheelchair circulation or specialist equipment."

The mum said: “In Kensington and Chelsea they have the whole 70 properties that are wheelchair accessible, so I went up to them and they said my question is where did you want to put me then, if you can't give me those four areas in Kensington and Chelsea?

“They said to me I have to go Watford and I said, ‘no I'm not going’.

“My husband pays the full rent, the full council tax, the council tax goes to RBKC and the rent goes to my landlord, so why do I need to go all the way outside London?

“[My] husband’s going to lose his job and the kids as well to be out of school.”

She added concerns about the fear of being electrocuted riding her wheelchair over water outside the property flooding from blocked drains covered in debris from the Grenfell fire disaster in 2017.

“The kids were scared," Gallardo said. "They were asking me if it's the people's bodies. There was no one to clean my entrance and when you open the door, it was like piled up and I didn't know what to do.

"I was trying to calm them down because that morning we didn't even know if our friends were alive or dead, everyone could see it, our entrance is facing the tower.

"It was piled up and I had to get round with my wheelchair, even when I was brushing it with a broom it was all the ashes it was like smokes coming in."

She added: "I've got a disability, the council must meet my needs, they must not ignore my needs."

A spokesperson for RBKC said: "The demand for social housing in Kensington and Chelsea far outstrips supply, particularly for larger properties and accessible ground-floor homes. Between March 2019 and April 2020, we had more than 3,200 people on our waiting list and only 457 properties available to let.

"We use clear criteria to prioritise support for those with the greatest need and if a resident informs us of a change in their circumstances, we will reassess their situation. We expect our housing providers to maintain properties to a high standard and provide quality homes.

“Increasing the supply of safe, healthy homes is a London-wide problem requiring a London-wide solution. We are taking steps including building 600 new Council homes and using planning policy to provide more accessible homes and require developers to deliver more genuinely affordable housing.”

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England.