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Tower Hamlets Homes’ U-turn frees disabled man trapped in his flat

PUBLISHED: 17:20 27 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:29 27 August 2013

Jim Veness on his mobility scooter with his nephew Eddie Smith at his home in Frederick Charrington House.

Jim Veness on his mobility scooter with his nephew Eddie Smith at his home in Frederick Charrington House.

Archant

A disabled man who had been stranded in his own home after a fire door left him unable to leave his flat block has been set free after a housing association’s U-turn.

Jim Veness felt like a “second class citizen” when health and safety officers built a new door which left him housebound in his one bedroom flat in Bethnal Green.

“I have to get a mobility scooter in my hallway because there is nowhere else to put one,” explained the 59-year-old.

“Now, in their infinite wisdom, they have put a fire door in between the main door to the block and my flat, so now I can’t get the scooter through there so I’m housebound.”

The angle of the doors made it impossible for him to squeeze through on his scooter.

“I just want my freedom back,” he said before the door was removed. “It’s as if no one cares anymore. I feel like a second class citizen now in my own country.”

Jim, who suffers from skin condition cellulitis, as well as arthritis and severe asthma, had only been given a mobility scooter in May after more than a year of waiting.

Without it, he had to rely on his nephew to leave his house in Wickford Street, where he has lived for nearly 20 years.

But housing association Tower Hamlets Homes (THH) soon stepped in to rectify the problem for Jim, who cannot work due to his health problems.

“They came round and took the door down,” he said.

“They are going to put a new door back but it will be full size door and not the silly little thing so I have still got the angle.”

A spokesman for THH explained the door was built so the block complied with fire regulations.

“THH make every effort to ensure our properties meet the needs of residents, but this must be balanced against our mandatory duty to meet fire safety standards,” he added.

“With this in mind, we have temporarily removed the door while we reassess Mr Veness’s access needs and the building’s fire safety requirements.”

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