Stuck

Ever had the lift break down in your office and had to take the stairs ten floors? It’s annoying, isn’t it?

Now imagine you couldn’t get in or out of your own home without the aid of a lift. And when that lift breaks down you are either housebound or stuck in your garden in your wheelchair, unable to get in.

Then imagine that the lift has broken down almost every week since it was fitted over a year ago. And that you have no emergency contact or plan in place for when it breaks. Not for want of asking…

That no-one wants to take responsibility for the problems. The very long list of problems that don’t isolate the fault to one part but suggest a fundamental issue with the lift in its entirety.

A lift that stops operating weekly because the door catches decide to do their own thing.

A lift that stops working completely when it rains.

A lift that has been known to open before the platform has reached the top, leaving a gaping two metre drop in front of you, your 4 year old in his wheelchair, or perhaps one day it will be your 6 year old daughter who likes to help by calling the lift up and then accidentally falls…

It needs replacing. But Cornwall Council, who commissioned the fitting of the lift, and who have admitted in writing that:

“The lift is not fit for purpose”

…still haven’t actually done anything to rectify the problem. Sending lift maintenance companies and manufacturers to tinker with bits of the lift every month has not solved the issue that we have a lift that continually breaks down, sometimes dangerously so, leaving us and our son housebound.

Not able to get to school. Not able to get to work. Housebound.

Today, our son has a physio appointment he must attend. We cannot get him there unless we physically carry him down fifteen steep steps. If you’ve ever carried a child with severe hypotonia you’ll know that’s something you really don’t want to do. As I found out two years ago when I fell down the steps while carrying him, injuring my back and dropping him on his face. The very reason the lifts were fitted in the first place.

I have quietly and determinedly dealt with this behind closed doors, giving both Cornwall Council and the lift companies the time and space to deal with any ‘teething problems’ we might have experienced since the lifts were fitted.

Wessex Lifts have been polite and accommodating and seemingly thorough but the situation remains that we have a lift that doesn’t work, that we can never rely on, and that we are back to where we began, manually lifting a child and a heavy wheelchair, having to rely on our own physical strength and the kindness of the school taxi driver to help.

I am sharing this publicly now, because we have explored all avenues for help within the Council, Dolphin Lifts and Wessex Lifts.

On 8 April 2014, a technical officer from Cornwall Council emailed me to say:

“I can assure you these problems will be rectified” 
 
On 12 January 2015, the manager of the council adaptations team said:
 
“The lifts have only been in place for a year or so and I would not expect the level of problems that have been reported. I would expect Dolphin to visit ASAP and sort out the issues.”
And on 9 July 2015:
 
“When a lift is no longer serviceable then we will consider providing a new lift through a Disabled Facilities Grant…”
but in the same sentence…
 
“I am very sorry they are experiencing these problems and that I cannot offer any solution to them. I will raise the subject at our next management meeting and update you on any decisions taken.”

And yet here we are, almost 18 months since the lifts were fitted. Stuck.

 

 

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