Disabled and elderly residents have blasted a council’s zero tolerance approach to storing mobility aids in their care homes.
People who live in sheltered accommodation and rely on mobility aids will be banned from storing them in communal areas because of health and safety concerns.
Anyone breaking the rules will have their aids confiscated under the new zero tolerance rules by Beds County Council.
This has led some to criticise the move as too harsh, saying it will leave them trapped in their rooms.
Martin Danzebrink’s mother lives at a council run accommodation in Leighton Buzzard, Beds.
He said the council is stripping away the dignity of elderly residents by not providing an alternative storage area for mobility aids.
He added: “Residents will no longer be able to store their mobility scooters or walking aids in communal areas, which will leave many unable to go out.
“My mother, who is a resident, is 88 and needs a walking aid to get to the shops.
“The letter has caused her and other residents some distress as no alternative provision has been made for the storage of their mobility aids and we understand no alternative storage is planned.
“Whilst the safety concern can be appreciated, wardens at these sheltered properties check all communal areas and fire exits on a daily basis.
“If this order is followed to the letter it will leave many of the residents unable to go out as they will not have access to their scooters etc, this will inevitably lead to isolation and a lack of contact with the rest of their community.
“The enforced stripping away of any pot plants, door mats and even noticeboards will ensure that the residents feel a little less at home.”
Central Beds Council runs the homes and says the decision is on health and safety grounds.
All residents across Central Beds have been sent letters outlining the new policy.
It explains that the decision has been taken in light of a fatal fire at a London care home in 2011.
The letter states: “The incident resulted in a number of deaths and the follow-up Health and Safety risk assessment showed that items left in communal areas had contributed to the risk.
“As a result, and to protect our residents, we are now enforcing a zero tolerance policy in regards to items being left or stored within all communal areas including pot plants (real or artificial), any ornaments, decorations, including doormats.
“We do appreciate that we have previously allowed you to store things like pushchairs, trolleys, scooters and bicycles under stairwells.
“However in future we are afraid we cannot allow this to continue.”
The letter warns that from March 24 any items left in communal areas could be removed by the council without warning.
It adds: “We fully understand the frustration this may cause, but must enforce this condition to keep you safe.”
In response Mr Danzebrink has contacted his MP Andrew Selous who has been in talks with the council.
Mr Selous has urged them to come to a solution “sooner rather than later”.
A Central Beds Council spokesman said: “We have a duty to make sure that our tenants are safe by identifying risks in our buildings and taking preventative actions.
“Fire is a big risk and to protect tenants we have introduced a policy that stops items from being left in corridors or communal areas that could prevent people from getting out of buildings quickly and safely in the event of a fire.
“This includes any items that people could trip over or could get in their way while trying to leave. While we understand that people in sheltered housing are keen to have their electric scooters at close hand we have to weigh this up against the fire risks.
“As well as potentially obstructing people’s escape, electric scooters which are left charging in communal areas can be a fire risk themselves and also a smoke hazard.
“For this reason we can’t allow electric scooters to be left in corridors or stairwells but we will work with tenants to find outdoor storage solutions that are a safe alternative to them leaving scooters inside buildings.”
By Oliver Pritchard