Mum-of-five fears having to leave Sidmouth after council house rejection

Claire Fuller and partner Bruce Farrell with their children

Claire Fuller and partner Bruce Farrell with their children - Credit: Archant

A mum-of-five has expressed her dismay at being refused a bigger council house – even though it is ‘perfect’ for her disabled son.

After three years, Claire Fuller is at the top of the waiting list, but when she bid for a four-bedroom home she was told it was too small for her family.

She claims it is twice the size of her current Tyrrell Mead council house and argues it should be her decision to make, not East Devon District Council’s (EDDC).

The council says it strives to allocate the ‘right person to the right property’ and technical issues had meant Claire could apply for an unsuitable property.

“I’m absolutely fuming,” said the 30-year-old. “I could understand if I wasn’t working or if I was in rent arrears, but I have a job and I’m in credit.

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“I don’t understand how they’ve worked this out. If I didn’t fit the criteria I’d understand – but I tick every box.

“If I move I’ll have to quit my job, but then I’ll be refused benefits and won’t be able to support my kids. It’s a Catch 22.

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“Why was I able to bid if it’s too small? I got my family’s hopes up.”

Claire and partner Bruce Farrell’s eldest son, Ollie, has learning difficulties, hypermobility and low muscle tone, which means he needs his own bedroom and a separate bathroom.

In addition, their only daughter, Chelsea, turns 10 soon and will need her own room - but Claire said their three youngest are all boys and could share.

“I don’t want to have to leave Sidmouth,” said the assistant manager. “The doctors and paramedics are all familiar with Ollie, and it’ll be hard enough for him moving into secondary school.

“My family’s always lived in Sidmouth.

“I don’t want to leave my job or for my kids to have to move school.”

Claire has only seen three four-bedroom homes become available since she has been on the waiting list - and says EDDC should have told her years ago if there were no suitable properties for her family.

She appealed to East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire.

His office has made representations to both EDDC and Devon Home Choice, which lists council properties online.

An EDDC spokeswoman said the four-bedroom house Claire applied for will soon be too small, and officers would not knowingly place families into accommodation that is not suitable.

She added: “The council recognises the need and the shortage of larger family homes.

“In an attempt to help address this shortage, the council has recently purchased 10 properties in East Devon, including two four-bedroom houses in Sidmouth, in an attempt to try and help meet the need.

“It is hoped that other suitable larger family homes will become available to add to the council’s housing stock.

“The family remains able to bid for suitable properties in Sidmouth as and when they become available.”

The spokeswoman the said ‘technical issues’ to blame for Claire being able to apply for unsuitable properties have now been addressed.

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