IN THE era of austerity – when every service and council department has been cut to the bone – is it acceptable that a person’s right to live with dignity is overlooked?

Karen Smurthwaite asked for a stairlift to be fitted in her property so she could access her bathroom; she has cerebral palsy and arthritis in her knees. She moved to Thirsk with her two adult children and husband from another property as she was told it would be suitable for a stairlift.

The local authority told her a stairlift wasn’t necessary; she could place a bed and commode in the living room of her family home and ask her family to wait outside when she needed the toilet.

Perhaps equally as bad was when she complained and expressed her frustration, she was told she was unpredictable and mentally incapable and they would only discuss her situation with her husband and carer.

It seems a particularly cruel jibe for an articulate 51-year-old with cerebral palsy. She certainly had no problems making her point eloquently to the Darlington & Stockton Times.

Perhaps it’s time we had a disability champion on the council to make sure people with disabilities don’t have their disabilities used as an excuse to ignore their concerns or silence them.

Housing and public money are both increasingly scarce and vulnerable people competing for a share of an ever-diminishing pot, whether it’s people with disabilities, or individuals who are frail, elderly or single parents.

It is hard to have a voice when you are in a vulnerable position in society and dependent on other people and cash-strapped organisations to make decisions about your housing, support or lifestyle. But as a newspaper we’re glad to support Karen in having a voice.