Disabled father begs his council for a better home

By Dana Gloger, May 9, 2008

A strictly Orthodox man who uses a wheelchair and cannot access the shower or kitchen of his flat has criticised his local council for not finding him a more suitable home.

Michael Freedman, 28, who lives in Edgware, Middlesex, has had to use a wheelchair since January last year, after he reacted to a pain-killing injection given to him during an operation for appendicitis.

It left him in severe and constant pain and unable to put any weight on his legs.

Mr Freedman, who has two young daughters, lost his job as a software developer when he could not return to work after his operation.

He says the situation has left his family having to survive on benefits in a two-bedroom flat which he claims is too small and not wheelchair-accessible. He would like a three-bedroom flat, but says the council has not been able to provide one.

He said: “All of this has hit us hard. I can’t use the kitchen because it’s too small to get the wheelchair in, so I can’t even make myself a drink. And I have no access to my shower at all. It’s not the way I want to live my life.

“We would be more of a family if we didn’t have to be on top of each other all the time. We are at the mercy of a disability.”

Mr Freedman, who with his family attends the Chabad Lubavitch synagogue in Edgware, added: “We have built up a relationship with the community here and don’t want to leave.”

His wife Sarah said: “Although this flat is too small, the council will not give us an extra room so my husband can be independent. It has said that, because we only have two children, and they are of the same sex, that we don’t need an extra room.”

Before Mr Freedman became unwell, he and his wife were buying a three-bedroom house, but the sale fell through when he lost his job.

Their local councillor, Brian Gordon, has been backing the couple. “I’m extremely supportive of their case and would desperately like to help them,” he said. “They need to stay within the eruv. They are desperate.”

A spokeswoman for Barnet Council said: “We are sympathetic to Mr Freedman’s disability and have accorded his needs the maximum number of points that we can in offering him new accommodation.” Council applicants need points to qualify for housing.

“Mr Freedman has told us that he needs a spare room to store his wheelchair so we have given him the option of applying for several wheelchair-accessible two-bedroom ground-floor flats that are available.

“Suitable wheelchair storage options can normally be organised for these, and one flat was within the area that he particularly specified. He has so far chosen not to bid for any of them and we are working with him to find a solution.”

Mr Freedman said that he looks at the list of properties every week, but that he still does not have enough points to bid for the most suitable ones.

Last updated: 2:25pm, May 13 2008