Able2UK Losers

Woman with meningitis stuck in hospital over a year waiting for accessible housing

Sophie Shuttleworth

Sophie Shuttleworth was admitted to hospital in the summer of 2022, sixteen months later she is still stuck in a ward because local authorities are unable to find her an accessible home.

The 32-year-old from Newport, Wales, is not eligible for a social property because they are reserved for people over the age of 55.

Ms Shuttleworth [pictured above] developed meningitis in July 2022, she was taken to hospital where the local council tried to place her in suitable accommodation, but so far they have had no luck.

Up until last year Shuttleworth worked as a beautician and graphic designer, but she woke up one morning unable to move.

She was admitted to The Grange University Hospital where at first  doctors suspected it was sunstroke, but later diagnosed her with viral meningitis.

Shuttleworth fell into a coma, she woke three weeks later and moved onto a ward where she needed a wheelchair.

Eight months of rigorous rehabilitation followed, until eventually she was healthy enough to be discharged from hospital, but she did not have a suitable home to go to as the family house, where she previously lived, has steps and is not wheelchair accessible.

In March she registered for social housing, but the council told her it would be a 40-week wait. 

Since last summer she has been moved between three hospitals, currently taking up a bed at St Woolos Hospital in Newport.

"I'm bed blocking somebody now who does need medical attention because there's nowhere for me to live," she told BBC News.

"It's ridiculous and shouldn't be this hard to constantly be having to jump through hoops when I can't even stand."

Whenever she hears about a suitable home which is reserved for residents aged 55 and 60 her “heart sinks”.

Shuttleworth feels leaving hospital is “getting further away” just because Newport Council can’t “magic up the stock”.

“I feel so abandoned by local authorities and stuck," she said.

It’s a similar story for Holly Greader [above], from Cardiff, living with chronic pain and hypermobility syndrome.

The 25-year-old needs a powered wheelchair and a number of accessibility equipment.

She was put on the social housing register in 2020 but "was told by multiple people in Cardiff council that bungalow houses were reserved only for the elderly".

Greader, who lives with her partner, resorted to sofa-surfing after their health deteriorated leading to the couple giving up a privately rented home.

She feels discriminated against after being told social housing is only available to people aged 55 or over.

"It felt very wrong," she said. "I could tell there was a huge lack of understanding."

It took over two years for their families to save up and buy the couple an accessible new house.

Alex Harrison from Disability Wales says owning a home if you are disabled can "feel like an impossible dream”.

She added: "This means it can be difficult to save enough needed for a deposit.”

As The Spinal Injuries Association points out, the shortage of accessible housing is a crisis throughout the UK.

A spokesperson for the charity said: "In the last 12 months we have seen an increase in calls to our support line from people across the country who are angry and concerned that they are in unsuitable and unsafe accommodation.

"We have heard of young people ending up in care homes alongside people with dementia because there is nothing else available."

Newport City Council said they were “doing everything” they can to place Shuttleworth in a suitable home so she can leave hospital.

Cardiff Council said there is a "severe shortage of good quality, affordable homes in Cardiff" but they are building new council homes to "tackle the high demand".

[ The Welsh government said it was "committed to improving accessibility in social housing in Wales". ]

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