‘Ignoring the needs of the disabled and elderly’: Council slammed for making disabled residents climb stairs

A town hall has been slammed by residents of a sheltered accommodation as a lift that elderly and disabled tenants use has not been usable for four years.

The Coventry Hall sheltered accommodation complex in Poleworth Road, Streatham, houses many disabled and elderly tenants, nine of which are in a block with a lift.

Tenants claim the lift did not work properly for around two years, then when it was fixed in September 2021 they were not granted access.

Tenants also claim they have paid around £50 a month for service charges but bags of rubbish from the stairwells are rarely collected, and complaints to the landlords – Lambeth council and Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH) – go unheard, despite the council’s area housing office sitting next door to the complex.

Rubbish left in the walkways Picture: Rae Coates

One tenant, Keith Riggs-Long, 68, has osteoarthritis and gout, and lives on the first floor. He said he has to “painfully” climb the stairs to his apartment each day.

“I take two steps onto one stair. It can be painful,” said Keith. 

“We had a resident that used to go and have kidney dialysis three times a week and had to be man handled down the stairs by the ambulance crew.

“I’ve actually got a mobility scooter and my mother, who is 97 and in a wheelchair, can’t visit me. We’ve had two Christmases where I haven’t been able to celebrate with my mother.”

The tenants say the lift used to break down all the time but when it was finally fixed they were told they could not use it for “security” reasons.

Keith added: “A bunch of disabled pensioners, we’re a security risk.”

Rae Coates, 74, who has lived in the accommodation for more than 15 years said he gets “very stressed out” by the mess and anti-social behaviour in the complex affects his mental health.

“People come and drink brandy in the stairwells and the rubbish never gets cleaned up, they’ve even started bringing their own bags because it’s never clean, though they still leave them lying around,” said Rae.

A Lambeth council spokesman said: “We are aware of the issues with the lift at Coventry Hall and we have been working to fix these for some time, but the repair has been held up by a delay in the supply chain. This has been a complex job, but we expect to have the lift up and running again very soon.

“We apologise for the distress this has caused to residents. We’d encourage any disabled resident who can’t manage the stairs to contact us, so we can help them relocate to a ground-floor property as a long term solution.”

A spokesperson for MTVH said: “Although the lifts at Coventry Hall are neither owned nor managed by MTVH, we fully understand the difficulties residents face when lifts are not in use, especially residents with mobility issues.

“We have been liaising with the resident concerned and will continue to do so in order to help him live as comfortably and independently as possible.”

Pictured top: Rae Coates, left, and Keith Riggs-Long, right, cannot gain access to the lift (Picture: Rae Coates)

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