Parents’ fight with Swindon council for more suitable home for autistic son

“Every day for us is a fight. It shouldn’t be such a hard fight to get what our son needs and deserves.”

Parents David and Kate England are at their wits’ end trying to secure more suitable housing for their son, who has special needs.

The couple live win a two-bed second floor council flat in Bembridge Close in Eldene with their two sons, James, eight and Nathan who is four.

Nathan has been confirmed as having autism and has some mobility difficulties and the size and location of the flat means professionals have agreed it is unsuitable for him, and also James.

Kate 34 said: “Nathan has loads of energy and his doctor has written to the council saying he needs room to run about to burn it off. He and James are sharing a room and sometimes Nathan needs to be on his own – he’ll go in his room and literally push anyone in out of it. That’s no good for James either.”

David, 33, who is Nathan’s primary carer and an artist, added: “It was really hard on him in lockdown especially – and when schools opened up for the children of key workers, he went back then because he couldn’t work in the flat with Nathan needing so much space.”

The family’s paediatrician Dr Teresa Carter has written about Nathan’s need for more room.

She said: “He has a huge amount of energy and would benefit from outdoor space. He is currently sharing a room with his older brother which is causing difficulty as both Nathan and his brother have a need for their own space. This has been particularly difficult during lockdown.”

Nathan’s education and health care plan acknowledges the need for a bigger flat – but Kate and David said their medical need for a three-bed house has not been recognised by Swindon Borough Council’s housing team.

They are on a waiting list for a larger home – but not with the priority they think Nathan deserves.

Kate, who works as a cleaner at a school to be able to look after her children, said: “We are in category B. But we think we should be in category A because of Nathan’s needs. The housing department says it realises this is inadequate – but says there are lots of people in overcrowded flats, and there isn’t enough housing of the right size.”

A letter to the Englands this month from the council’s housing department said: “Having taken into consideration all the supporting evidence received, you do not meet the criteria for the emergency medical band A category. It is recognised your current housing is unsatisfactory, however we have many families waiting their turn on the housing register in band B for a larger property. These families are also living in very difficult circumstances, with many having two or more children sharing a bedroom or a child sharing with a parent. These circumstances are far from ideal, but we do not have the housing stock to meet the demand for larger properties and most applicants will experience a long wait to reach their turn.”

Kate said: “We don’t think we should be moved because this is too small – it’s because it doesn’t meet the medical needs of our son.

“We know there’s a shortage, and we know there’s a queue. We don’t want to jump the queue; we’re not demanding we be moved right away – we’d just like to be allowed to be in the right queue.”

Currently Kate said there are about 60 people in category A and 600 people in category B.

A council spokesperson said: “We always try our very best to help residents with their housing needs. Unfortunately, demand for certain properties is higher than others. This means we are not always able to place everyone in the accommodation they desire.

“We have a Housing Allocations Policy to ensure people are prioritised and given the housing appropriate to their needs.

“The family in this case have been placed in Band B due to them already being housed on a temporary tenancy, although we have since adjusted their eligibility following evidence provided and have awarded an additional bedroom. We will continue to work with the family.”

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