Chancellor's wife tours JBD flat

November 26, 2009
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Maggie Darling (left) with Russell and Felicity Reuben in their JBD flat

Maggie Darling (left) with Russell and Felicity Reuben in their JBD flat

When Maggie Darling hosted Jewish Blind and Disabled’s 40th anniversary celebration at 11 Downing Street in October, the Chancellor’s wife promised to visit a JBD property.

True to her word, Mrs Darling breezed into the charity’s Frances and Dick James Court in Mill Hill last Thursday to tour the 42-flat facility and meet staff and tenants.

One of the first things she saw was the wall of dedications from donors, where she stopped to study the inscriptions, remarking: “It’s very moving — I cannot think of a better memorial.”

She was equally impressed by features such as wide corridors, colour-codes for each floor and a lift with vocal function to make life easier for those in wheelchairs or with vision impairment.

JBD chief executive Hazel Kaye stressed that tenants lived an independent existence, but with in-house support available around the clock.

At the Downing Street reception, Mrs Darling had chatted with MS sufferer Russell Reuben, who has lived for almost four years in the block with his wife Felicity, affectionately known as Flea. Now, in a role reversal, she was visiting him at his home, where the Reubens explained how JBD had changed their lives.

A schoolboy footballer for Leyton Orient, Mr Reuben had gone on to forge a successful career in advertising — his agency had come up with a robot ad for Fiat which Mrs Darling immediately recalled. However, as his condition worsened, even the few steps to their former ground floor flat became too much to cope with and his wife was scared to leave him on his own.

Moving to the JBD flat — where a number of Mrs Reuben’s sculptures are on display — had restored their independence, she said. “It’s amazing for me. I am able to go to work and I have got the peace of mind.”

For Mr Reuben, the move had been “fantastic. Flea pursues her sculpting, I pursue my creative writing. And we still go out.”

Complimenting the couple on being “amazingly positive people”, Mrs Darling said their experience showed that JBD had provided “such a good model — this is how it should be”. And her link with the Reubens is set to continue as she invited them back to Downing Street.

    Last updated: 1:32pm, December 2 2009