PENSIONERS sent letters by Sheffield Homes threatening to seize and destroy their mobility scooters have received an apology from the councillor in charge of city housing policy.
The housing management company has also been ordered to communicate in a more ‘sensitive’ way with tenants.
Sheffield Homes, which looks after the city’s 42,000 council houses, sent out 3,374 letters as part of efforts to clear corridors and stairwells in blocks of flats and maisonettes. The aim was to implement fire regulations after a fatal blaze in a tower block in London.
But now the company has said sorry for causing old people distress - and Sheffield Council cabinet member for homes, Coun Harry Harpham, agreed Sheffield Homes must communicate more gently with older tenants.
Some elderly and disabled people are unable to fit mobility scooters and wheelchairs inside their small homes, so park them in communal corridors and tucked under stairs.
But Sheffield Homes wants all items deemed ‘trip hazards’ to be removed - so corridors are clear to escape in case of fire. It sent letters to people about items ranging from scooters to plant pots.
Several pensioners contacted The Star to complain about the ‘heavy handed’ letters, which state: ‘If the items are not moved within one month they will become the property of Sheffield Council and be disposed of. You may be charged.’
Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice Littlewood, aged 93, of Shirecliffe, was sent a letter telling her to remove her fold-up wheelchair and zimmer frame.
But her daughter Pat Hague, a member of Shirecliffe Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “Neither item was in the way. Sheffield Homes should have visited my mother in person rather than send threatening letters.
“I am not only speaking on behalf of my mother but other elderly people. It’s no way to treat them.”
Sheffield Homes officers have since visited Mrs Littlewood and agreed to let her keep her fold-up wheelchair outside her home.
The company said it is now trying to speak to other tenants directly rather than sending letters.
“We are sorry for any distress - we didn’t intend to cause Mrs Littlewood unnecessary worry,” a Sheffield Homes spokeswoman said.
“We have agreed the wheelchair can stay where it is until we have looked into other possible storage options – and this is also the case for other tenants with mobility issues.”
Coun Harry Harpham added: “I can only apologise on behalf of Sheffield Homes for the distress caused to Mrs Littlewood and her family - and also to any other resident concerned following receipt of these letters.
“Clearly this is a communications issue.
“I think we can all agree that areas need to be clear so people can escape in the instance of a fire. However, Sheffield Homes need to communicate with tenants in a sensitive way. I’ll be looking into this.”