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Squeeze ‘Em In

April 27, 2017

Yesterday I wrote about my friend’s horrible experience in one of our local cafes where she was banned for basically being disabled. I can’t get the unfairness of this out of my head. I keep thinking of the time Steven was banned from Virgin Active after complaints from three women from the water aerobics group. Whether it is someone dribbling onto their food or someone squealing with excitement under the ice cold water bucket shower, we’re living in empathy lite times. Despite the law on reasonable adjustments, it is always likely that a business will take the side of the non disabled customer and let the disabled person carry the can for others’ ignorance or prejudice.

I got a further sinking feeling today. I cam across two links for two new supported living units currently being earmarked for learning disabled people.


Willow Park Group assisted living apartments

The first picture is a 26 unit (one bedroom flats) which has been remodeled from a sheltered housing scheme to supported living for learning disabled people.

The second picture is of a 48 unit complex run by Willow Park Charity in Clacton. The charity are hoping that the sale of 21 bungalows to non disabled people that they are building at the front of the complex will fund the building of the supported living flats.

In a similar vein, I came past our old house today. You may remember that we had to move last October as we were told that the entire road was being demolished to make way for a new development. The demolition was meant to happen in February but it has become clear that there has been a change of plan (or we were lied to all along). Scaffolding went up about six weeks ago and the first job was to replace the roof tiles. Today, it appeared that our house is being converted into two flats. It wasn’t a large house, so the flats will be minuscule. Just ripe for a learning disabled person.

Places like the developments in Clacton and Stockport are not new. Most towns have them now. I’ve written at length about the 40 unit place near us. Opinion is very divided on them. Some of the comments on social media today are that the Clacton one is a very good idea and will present a choice for a learning disabled person who wants to live in that kind of environment. It’s hard to argue with that if that is what the person really wants. I find it unfortunate that the counter argument when anyone expresses dismay at that sort of places is often life at its bleakest. Recently a person whose opinion I value a lot argued for ATUS  as their only alternative was prison. Today I saw an argument that the Clacton development was good as it would prevent people being homeless. I don’t understand that position. It certainly closes down any discussion. But surely there has to be more on offer than ATUs, Prison or Homelessness.

My view is slightly less charitable. It seems obvious to me that these kind of developments are so popular at the moment because they lend themselves to much cheaper care costs once people are actually inside them. I think it is safe to assume that once the 46 units in Clacton are filled, the residents support and budgets will be pooled. The residents will be in their nightclothes by 7pm. They might go out window shopping in groups of four if staffing levels allow. One thing I’m sure of is that we will not see 46 people, each with their own support team and personal budgets, being able to live a life of their choosing. It will be service centred rather than person centred.

What has this got to do with the story of the cafe ban? A good friend was telling me earlier that since her learning disabled son moved into his own place two months ago, one neighbour has put the tenancy at risk with constant complaints about him. We had that situation before Christmas where Steven was facing an ASBO after the people in the flat upstairs complained to the council about his noise. I can’t help wondering if part of the popularity of the Willow Park project is it contains all those pesky noisy, dribbling disabled people in one place. 46 sights for sore eyes kept out of sight for the comfort of others.

My heart sinks because these places have their roots in the institutional model rather than the nice home model. They are institutions with a window box. Where else would 46 people with a defining characteristic be housed together. 46 Diabetics? 46 Redheads?

I think the big problem we’ve got is how to present to the wider public that there may be better options than 46 units. I’m not sure that the empathy or the interest is there. as things stand, these places are win wins for so many people. Even, if I admit grudgingly, a win win for some of the residents.

I just know that I wouldn’t like to live in Willow Park. I’m sure that Steven wouldn’t want to live in Willow Park. And I’m pretty sure that if push came to the shove, Gary Guiver, the planning manager at Tendring Council wouldn’t want to live there either.


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One Comment
  1. Jayne knight permalink

    And neither would I on the borders of the town too just a place for people to go to because there is that sort of place there
    No imagination whatsoever

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