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'Red tape' denies Bicester couple vital stairlift
Buy this photo » Les and Ellen Duddridge
THEY fought for King and country during the Second World War.
He was the dashing sailor who saw action in Italy and Burma and the North Atlantic; she was the glamorous ATS girl doing her duty on the home front.
Now Les Duddrige, 86 and wife Ellen, 90, are facing a fresh fight; one with red tape and officialdom and one which they simply are not prepared to lose.
Their battle, which is being taken up by Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, involves getting a stairlift installed in the housing association home in Danes Road, Bicester that they have lived in for the past 46 years.
They have been turned down for a grant because the property was once owned by the “wrong” housing association.
They have lived there since 1966 and have always paid their rent on time, first to Cherwell District Council, then Banbury Homes and now Sanctuary Housing.
Now Mrs Duddridge has mobility problems and finds it difficult to climb the stairs and her husband has terminal lung cancer.
Both her doctor and an occupational health visitor have recommended a stairlift.
Mrs and Mrs Duddridge were told a pot of money held by Sanctuary Housing, called the Disabled Facility Grant, was available to help people financially to make adaptations to their homes.
But the couple have now been told that because their property was once owned by Banbury Homes, they are not eligible for a grant.
If however, Charter Homes had taken over the property instead they could have got help.
The couple, who both worked at Bicester Defence Storage and Distribution Centre, face a £600 bill to install the stairlift and on-going monthly rental payments of £45. It’s something they cannot afford.
Mr Duddridge, wearing his chest full of medals earned during the war, fumed: “I feel so annoyed about it. To think they are not prepared to help in any way.
“When the lady came out she said ‘we have a pot which we keep the extra money in to help people’ – well we are not getting any help.”
Mrs Duddridge, added: “A stairlift would be great, trying to get up and down the stairs is murder. I start at the bottom and think I’m never getting to the top.”
The couple have two children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Granddaughter Nicola Brittain said: “There is a pot of money there, but because of a technicality over Banbury Homes, they are not included.
“Their house was taken over by Banbury Homes, they didn’t have a choice.
“They just carried on paying their rent. This is why there’s a problem now.
“I think it’s outrageous. They have never asked for anything, they’re too proud, but now is when they need something.”
A spokesman for Sanctuary Housing said: “When Cherwell District Council transferred homes to Charter Community Housing, one of the conditions was that any disabled adaptations needed in the future would be funded by Charter.
“The properties have since transferred to Sanctuary Housing, along with this obligation.”
She said residents of other social landlords could apply to Cherwell District Council for a grant.
Sir Tony pledged to take up the couple’s case after he was contacted by the Oxford Mail.
He said: “I don’t think the fact who owned it and where the house was transferred from is relevant.
“They are tenants of Sanctuary Housing, so what can Sanctuary Housing do to make their lives more comfortable?
“There is a support pot of money for adaptations to housing, which Cherwell District Council administers.
“The difficulty is there’s lots of pressure on it and very often it’s exhausted very quickly.”