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To the Equality and Human Rights Commission

We, the undersigned, have learned that you have launched an inquiry into housing for disabled people and welcome this initiative, feeling it to be a necessity in the current housing climate.

We want to present you with this urgent request to include the case of Mr Robert Carver in your inquiry.

Robert Carver is a paraplegic who has been told by his GP, nurse, occupational therapist and psychologist that he needs 24-hour-a-day care but Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) has only allocated him 28 hours a week. This means that Robert Carver is left to his own devices for two days a week and on the other days from 17:00 till noon the next day. During that time he has no access to food, water, toilet, bath or even his bed.

Despite desperate pleas for a review of this situation from Robert Carver’s medical team, independent advisers, and the local ambulance and fire services, BHCC has only recently reiterated that they see no need to expand the care he receives, something rephrased by both the leader of the Council and Robert Carver’s MP. The latter two have been repeatedly invited to visit Robert Carver and see his situation for themselves. Both have ignored the invitations.

The accommodation which has been allocated to Robert Carver is a second-floor flat which can only be reached by two flights of steep stairs. Robert Carver has to be dragged up and down the stairs in order to attend his medical appointments. The flat itself is too small to be wheelchair accessible which means that Robert Carver is pulled around over the floor by his PA.

For several years Robert Carver’s social workers have maintained that his current accommodation and care is ‘perfectly acceptable’. It was only when Robert Carver’s plight reached some media outlets that a BHCC spokesman admitted that the accommodation was unsuitable. Despite years of pain and stress the closest the BHCC could come to an apology was an answer a Council spokesman gave to Disability News Service: “We are sorry that we have not so far been able to offer Mr Carver accommodation that meets his expectations,” thereby effectively denying their duty and obligation to do so and implying the problem lies with Robert Carver.

Despite promising to offer Robert Carver alternative suitable accommodation after the media attention, the Council came with an offer of a room in an emergency accommodation notorious for damp, drug-use and misbehaviour. Robert Carver’s medical team advised him very strongly not to accept this offer. The BHCC and local MP have informed Robert Carver that if he does not accept their offer they might opt to choose to no longer recognise their duty of care. This means Robert Carver will become 'intentionally homeless' and have no other option but trying to survive as one of the many street homeless in Brighton & Hove.

We, the undersigned, cannot comprehend the reasoning of the leader of the Council and local MP in choosing to ignore medical experts’ negative evaluation of this alternative accommodation, instead relying on the judgement of the ‘experts’ who have, for years, insisted that a wheelchair bound paraplegic is suitably housed in accommodation the accessibility of which requires the negotiation of two steep flights of stairs, as well as other aspects which make it impossible for Robert Carver to enjoy anything resembling independent living.

We, the undersigned, believe that latter to be ample evidence that these individuals are not professionally competent enough to have the final word regarding alternative accommodation for Robert Carver.

We, the undersigned have grave concerns regarding Robert Carver’s situation. Each and every day in his current unsuitable accommodation causes further deterioration to Robert Carver’s declining health. Robert Carver simply cannot afford to wait another five years while those responsible continue to shy away from meeting their obligations under national and international law.

We, the undersigned believe that Brighton & Hove City Council’s treatment of Robert Carver contravenes the following:

1. Article 4 of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD): General Obligations (1c, 1d, 1i, 3).
2. Article 9 of the UNCRPD: Accessibility (2g, 2f).
3. Article 10 of the UNCRPD: Right of life.
4. Article 15 of the UNCRPD: Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (1 and 2).
5. Article 17 of the UNCRPD: Protecting the integrity of the person.
6. Article 19 of the UNCRPD: Living independently and being included in the community (a), (b), (c).
7. Article 28 of the UNCRPD: Adequate standard of living and social protection (1, 2d). 
8. Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU): Human Dignity. 
9. Article 2 of the CFREU: Right to life.
10. Article 3 of the CFREU: Right to the integrity of the person (1). 
11. Article 4 of the CFREU Prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
12. Article 26 of the CFREU: Integration of persons with disabilities.
13. Article 34 of the CFREU: Social security and social assistance
14. Article 35 of the CFREU: Health care

We, the undersigned, believe that Brighton & Hove City Council’s treatment of Robert Carver is also in breach of relevant parts of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, Housing Act 1996, Human Rights Act 1998, Equality Act 2010, the Public Sector Equality Duty 2011, and the Care Act 2014.

We, the undersigned, would like to draw your attention to relevant EU case law such as Price v. the United Kingdom (2001), Vincent v. France (2006), Arutyunyan v. Russia (2012), Grimailovs v. Latvia (2013), Semikhvostov v. Russia (2014) and Asalya v. Turkey (2014).

In all of these cases the European Court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention because the applicants were unable to move autonomously in unsuitable environments. In all of these cases the wheelchair bound applicants were denied some of the minimal necessities for a civilised life (such as sleeping on bed, being able to access kitchen/sanitation/medical facilities) and/or were expected to negotiate stairs. None of these situations were deemed compatible with the applicants’ human dignity and all considered to exacerbate the physical pain and mental anguish of the applicants. All of these situations bear strong resemblances to Robert Carver’s case.

To conclude, we, the undersigned, want to emphasise the urgency of this matter as well as the importance of a just and equal hearing for Robert Carver, taking into account more than just the opinions of a handful of dependent Council experts, but also the many testimonies of independent medical, emergency and housing experts, as well as Robert Carver himself. So far, his, opinion has been deemed so unimportant that he has been excluded from meetings regarding his own future.

Sincerely yours,

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