Thursday, February 18, 2010

Contend In Vain?

Neville Angove

 I applied for medical priority government housing in March 2007. There was no way I could obtain private housing suitable for wheelchair access and with room for occasional full time care. I kept applying for 18 months (the Housing NSW mission statement said about a two week wait), and none was offered. Finally the local allocations officer said that although I clearly qualified and had extensive medical references, there was simply none available, and none planned. As well, there was another disabled person ahead of me on the waiting list.

I escalated the matter to the political level. Then my full-time carer asked me to leave (using the police as her vehicle), since she had agreed only to three months (after which I was supposed to spontaneously grow new nerves). I spent six weeks trapped in a third floor unit, unable to leave without assistance, and able to move around the unit only on my hands and knees.

Then I was offered a semi-detached unit, organised without the knowledge of the local office. Housing had spent over $2 million dollars buying a half-completed eight-unit complex, with the condition that one unit be modified for wheelchair access. I moved in during November 2008.

Because of the hurry completing the unit, it had been relocated to no longer enjoy the passive temperature control with which it had been designed, and the ground had not settled. As well, some features designed for wheelchair accessibility were absent. I did not quibble at the time, since my prognosis gave me little time to live.

When I moved in, Housing's local office could not do enough for me. Over the next few months, this changed. When my prognosis changed to an expectation of an unfortunately longer life, I began to take interest in what would be the last independent living dwelling I would have.

I had to take Housing to the tenants tribunal to force it to allow me to install some passive temperature control features, so at least my second summer in the unit (and the worst one here for decades) was tolerable. Even my local politician, Joe Tripodi, eventually stopped fighting for me, having been "told" by the civil servants to cease and desist.

Only two days ago (late in the evening of February 16th 2010), I telephoned through a list of maintenance needs to Housing's new customer dissatisfaction system. Many could only be handled in the Department's regular maintenance review (about four years hence), but repair orders were drawn up to handle some others.

Now Housing maintenance is supposed to take from two to four weeks, but there is a long backlog (one chap waited 18 months for a window to be fixed). I had two teams arrive within 12 hours to fix a broken security lock and replace a leaking water pie. As well one team promised to submit a report recommending a new pressure relief valve and fixing a leak in my toilet pedestal (leaking sewage does not appeal to me). I do not know when this will be done, since I reported it months earlier.

And this morning, I received another call to say that another repairer wanted to fix my wall oven (which had trouble turning off when requested), but could not specify an arrival time except somewhere in a four-hour period (since I have to see my doctor in that time, I had to schedule the repair visit for the following Monday).

I mention this because it seems I am now high up in the list again. Perhaps someone has noticed that I am still getting my complaints published, or need to be satisfied? I still can't get some major faults fixed, but I will keep on trying (it seems that there are a few small factions within the civil service who still want to do their jobs; it is just a matter of getting their attention).

While you generally contend in vain to get the civil servants to actually do their jobs, the fight isn't always fruitless. Now I just need to get my vertical blinds reattached, some settlement cracks repair, something done about doors and windows no longer being square, and a bug infestation removed.

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