Horsham student’s ‘kick in the teeth’ from county council

Lucinda Ritchie left and her mother Christine. Photo by Derek Martin
Lucinda Ritchie left and her mother Christine. Photo by Derek Martin
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A Horsham student has said she is suffering undue anxiety and stress because of excessive delays by West Sussex County Council to do an assessment for her disability.

Lucinda Ritchie, of Badgers Close, suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes her joints to dislocate easily and deterioration in the past four months has meant she is now using a wheelchair.

Her ordeal started in May when she first applied for help and after three months had passed, the family brought their story to The County Times. Her mother Christian said the family ‘were no further forward’.

She is now ready to start her geography and environmental studies degree in Southampton on Monday, but because of delays by WSCC in carrying out assessments, she may have to start without a carer - putting her health at risk, she says.

Mrs Ritchie said the disability advisors at Solent University, where Lucinda plans study, have not heard of any other authority being so slow to respond.

She said: “The council wouldn’t send their own occupational therapists (OTs) to look at the room. Then Solent said social services have their own OTs and the OT is now coming from WSCC on Friday.

“Lucinda’s consultant, Prof Rodney Grahame at St John’s Hospital, London, has said the support ‘falls short of what is needed and is humane’.”

Christine said: “Viv Kilner at the council told me in writing there was a pull cord in the room. There was absolutely nothing and never is in these rooms.

“There’s a security guard who’s there to guard 800 students. They are not there to care.

“The previous occupant of that room had a full time carer and the council are trying to send her there with nothing.”

A spokesman for WSCC, whose full statement is in the panel, said: “We have agreed to conduct an OT assessment once Miss Ritchie had visited the university. Information from her school she left in July indicates Miss Ritchie can cope well without help. We are puzzled by the comment that ‘WSCC have gone silent’ as both Miss Ritchie and her mother have been in constant contact with staff. We would also point out that Miss Ritchie has declined to fully participate in full assessments, which has made resolving her request for services difficult to conclude or to use some of her own resources to meet her needs. We would ask that she now decides to participate fully in all assessments.”

Lucinda refutes this claim. She said: “I have always co-operated with things except when they were placing my wellbeing in jeopardy.

“I did refuse to do some of the suggested exercises as they are not suitable for my condition and I did refuse to take medication for incontinence when I do not suffer from it.

“At school, when I did board at school, things took a very long time and at that point I wasn’t in a wheelchair.”

Mrs Ritchie added: “Why didn’t the council say something to us? They haven’t said ‘you have got to do this’. It’s like a kick in the teeth.”