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New home is the key to freedom for Debbie

Debbie Bryan with Councillor Paul Fieldhouse, Councillor Val Chapman and Lesley Birch from the development team at SSHA.

South Staffordshire Housing Association (SSHA) has handed over the keys to a new home which Debbie Bryan says is changing her life.

The bungalow in Bilbrook has been specially designed for Debbie, who has spina bifida. Six years ago the mum of two became a full-time wheelchair user, restricting her to two rooms on the ground floor of her previous home.

“I needed to move into a more accessible home but I wanted to stay in the area because my parents and sister live nearby and I get a lot of support from my family. About a year ago I heard that SSHA were redeveloping a former garage site to provide new homes and that I had been allocated an adapted bungalow,” said Debbie.

The SSHA development team wanted to make certain that Debbie could access every part of her new home and their made-to-measure approach started with a visit to see how she used her wheelchair.

As a result, the new home features extra-wide doorways and plenty of turning space in every room. “My condition means that my leg has to be extended. Obviously that means I need quite a lot of space to turn the chair around,” Debbie explained.

“I’ve got my independence back. The first time I washed a load of laundry, folded the clothes and put them in my daughter’s bedroom was very special because I’ve relied on my children to do so much to help. This is much more than a new home. It feels as though I can be a proper mum again.”

With a shortage of affordable housing in South Staffordshire, the average house price is now almost eight times the average household income. In a bid to provide new homes in village settings, SSHA researched its garage locations to identify sites that might be suitable for low-impact development.

The association has worked with district and parish councils to ensure that these developments meet the particular needs of local communities. In Bilbrook, councillors Val Chapman and Paul Fieldhouse were aware of Debbie’s housing needs and stayed closely involved in the project to provide her with alternative accommodation.

Councillor Chapman, Chairman of South Staffordshire Council, said, “Providing new affordable housing to help local people of all ages continue living within their parish contributes in the long term to maintaining the community spirit. Debbie is from Bilbrook and has close family nearby and this new bungalow has given her the independence to live in her own home.

“When I first met Debbie I was struck by how, in spite of her disability, she just wanted to do what she described as ‘normal things’ for herself and her family. I am very pleased that by working in partnership, South Staffordshire Housing Association and South Staffordshire Council have made it possible for her to do that.”

Photo - Debbie Bryan with Councillor Paul Fieldhouse, Councillor Val Chapman and Lesley Birch from the development team at SSHA.