Dion Fox, 49, is originally from London, but currently lives in a bungalow provided by Bolsover District Council in Shirebrook. He is a wheelchair user and contends with a range of illnesses including arthritis, gastroparesis, double incontinence, chronic pain and short term memory loss.
He suffered internal radiation burns during treatment for testicular cancer in 2007, and also has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which Dion said can have a terrible effect on his body.
“Because of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, my shoulders come out of socket if I use crutches- it’s quite horrific. I can rip my muscles and I’m always in pain.”
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As well as dealing with these conditions, Dion has faced 12 years of housing issues. In 2010, the council house he was living in was flooded after a mains burst. The property was left with damp and he was attacked twice before being moved to temporary accomodation in 2015.
He has remained here since, and has faced more anti-social behaviour at his new address. Dion also said that the bungalow has not been altered to meet the needs of someone who relies on a wheelchair.
“I’ve got an occupational therapy report which says the house isn’t suitable for my needs. The door frames are too narrow to get my wheelchair through and the kitchen worktops are too high. I’ve also got subsidence and repairs that have never been done.
“I've got to struggle to get out of my car to get into my house, because I can’t park outside to use my wheelchair. I can’t sit out in my back garden in the summer because people will come past and tell me to f*** off back to London.
“I’m sleeping in the living room- they have provided a hospital bed but there’s no room for a sofa. I’ve got no carpets or anything because they told me it was temporary, that I would be out of here within six months, and it's coming up to ten years.”
As Dion’s bungalow was only considered to be temporary accommodation, an application for adaptations by Derbyshire County Council was rejected by BDC in 2016.
In 2019, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman ruled that Bolsover District Council had failed to follow up on agreed actions following a meeting concerning Dion’s search for a new property two years prior. Dion had previously considered moving to be closer to his mother, but during this meeting, he clarified that he wanted to remain in the area. Despite this, the council had not ensured that Dion was on the housing register and were not actively working to find properties for him.
The council apologised and placed Dion back on the register, and backdated the waiting time for his housing application to 2017. However, Dion is still waiting to find a new property, and said that he was struggling to cope in his current accomodation.
“I just want out, but the council isn't going to do anything. It’s like they say, to find out about a culture, look at how they treat their most vulnerable, and I’m afraid to say I’m in that category.
“It’s not good enough from the local authority, and it’s about time they started doing their job correctly.”
“Why would I want to stay in an area where people are abusing me? There should be a specific police officer that deals with disabled people. I don’t feel safe where I live, I’ve just really had enough- when does it stop?
“There are millions of disabled people across the country, and so many are treated like this- when do we get the right housing and care?”
Despite his struggles, Dion is focused on the future, and is trying to raise £17,000 for a new wheelchair that he hopes will boost his independence. As a former prison officer, he also said that he wanted to set up a charity event similar to the Invictus Games, founded by Prince Harry, for other disabled frontline workers.
“I want to get on with my life. I love field target shooting, and one of the reasons I need the new wheelchair is so I can get over fields to go and do that. I could be one of the best in this country at it, I'm really good, but I can’t go out and do it because I haven’t got the chair. I want to be independent.
“I’m 51 and I’ve been told I can never go back to work, but I want a future. I want to open a charity for the police and prison officers that aren’t allowed to go to the Invictus Games. There’ll also be help, counselling, solicitors and things like that.”
A spokesperson from Bolsover District Council said: “Bolsover District Council is not able to comment on individual personal circumstances, however, following the information provided by the Derbyshire Times, the Council will contact Mr Fox directly to see what support we are able to offer him.”