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Tuesday, 16 August 2011 (3017771)
Disabled woman fears losing home
by David Simister

A DISABLED pensioner will be forced out of her Skelmersdale home as part of borough council moves to free up underoccupied houses in the town, her angry family have claimed this week.

Champion reader Paul Smithurst said that his sister-in-law Jean, 62, was asked to move from her three bedroom terraced council house on Elmstead at the end of the month by the borough council, which he argued would have an adverse effect on her and make problems resulting from her mobility difficulties worse.

“It's a joke, and I was absolutely disgusted to hear that Jean had been contacted by the council about moving her to alternative accomodation. There are other council homes in Skelmersdale - including in this part of Tanhouse - which are underoccupied by people without Jean's difficulties, but I don't see the council doing anything them,” he said.

“I know that her having to move house at her age and with her problems would just destroy her. She's got all this stress and upheaval to deal with as a result of this, and it's something she could really do without.”

Mr Smithurst added that the additional rooms in the house are frequently used by relatives who visit from as far afield as Scarborough and Carlisle to visit Jean, and that the home had been modified to make it easier for her to be able to use with the aid of a mobility scooter.

However West Lancashire Borough Council disputed the family's claims, and said that her current tenancy is due to terminate due to a change in her personal circumstances and that she has applied for suitable alternative accommodation.

A spokesperson for the borough council said:

“Mrs Smithurst will be eligible to bid for properties, through West Lancs HomeFinder, that meet her current housing need. The Council have a duty to make best use of its housing stock and so takes account of household size and other criteria when determining the size of property that an applicant can bid for.

”Reference to the Transfer Incentive Scheme (downsizing scheme) has been made but in this case it is not applicable. The scheme is voluntary for eligible current tenants who wish to transfer to a smaller property freeing up larger properties for families to access.

“Due to the manner in which Mrs Smethurst’s tenancy is coming to an end it means her application for housing is dealt with using the HomeFinder system. West Lancs HomeFinder is the new way to find and rent a home from West Lancashire Borough Council. Anyone who wants to rent a home from the council can use the HomeFinder system to find out what's available and to bid for a new home.

The HomeFinder system, which in West Lancashire replaces the traditional system of council housing waiting lists allows applicants to ”bid“ for properties that become available from a pool of those which match the type and size of home that meets that applicant’s housing requirement.


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