Elderly Emerson Park couple homeless after 12-year Spanish nightmare

PUBLISHED: 15:04 27 October 2015 | UPDATED: 15:56 27 October 2015

Fred and Shirley (sat down) with carer Sharni Blake, Richard and Rose Ellis and Georgina Smith

Fred and Shirley (sat down) with carer Sharni Blake, Richard and Rose Ellis and Georgina Smith


Homeless pensioners returning from a nightmare spell in Spain have been told they can’t be housed in Havering – their home for most of their lives.

Fred Darrant, 83, and wife Shirley, 81, flew back from Valencia after a series of major health problems and growing debts which forced them to sell their home to an equity release company.

The down-on-their-luck couple, who ran Wisdom School of Motoring in Emerson Park for 40 years, have now been told they made themselves homeless and Havering Council has no duty of care for them because of their Spanish property.

The authority has put them in temporary accommodation and is taking care of their medical needs, but social services have said the only long-term option it could offer was a care home, which would cost more but not use up council housing stock.

The family has appealed and Rose Ellis, the couple’s daughter-in-law, has accused the council of turning its back on the couple.

She said: “They have always worked and paid tax here, now they need help this council is going ‘on your bike’. They aren’t ready to be put in a care home. They don’t deserve this.”

Rose, of Mertle Road, Harold Hill, also said a social services report was lost before it got to housing staff and accused the departments of not communicating.

Care coordinator Georgina Smith was hired by the family to produce a £20,000 care package. She believes the couple have been let down.

“They want a little warden controlled flat,” she said. “Putting them in a care home doesn’t make any financial sense and it isn’t what they want.”

Fred and Shirley have been married 61 years and dreamed of enjoying their retirement in the sun when they left for Valencia in 2003.

But months into their Spanish adventure Shirley, now 81, had a heart attack. Their health continued to deteriorate and in May Fred had a stroke and laid on the floor all night as Shirley couldn’t get to the phone.

Friends paid for them to fly home in June and Fred had a heart attack on the plane and was rushed to Basildon Hospital on landing.

They temporarily stayed with Richard and Rose but Fred was again hospitalised, this time with heart failure.

The couple are now in Royal Jubilee Court, Main Road, Romford. They were meant to stay just three weeks but Rose believes Cllr Jeff Tucker’s presence at an exit meeting helped extend their stay.

Cllr Damian White, deputy council leader and cabinet member for housing, said: “We are sorry to hear of the difficulties which both Mr and Mrs Darrant are going through. Our social services and housing departments have worked together to find a temporary home which will meet their needs until they are able to find alternative accommodation. We have provided personal care assistance to support them given their medical needs.

“We will be updating the couple once we have carried out a financial assessment. This will take into account their equity release and the property they own in Spain. As per our statutory process, the couple are able to request a review of the housing decision we made. This was explained in the decision letter and I understand that they are seeking to take up the offer to challenge the decision.”

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