Here is the Camden New Journal report of our protest on Tuesday outside Bidborough House. We named and shamed Jim Wintour, the director of Housing and Adult Social Care, among others. He has refused a public inquiry into the circumstances of Jennyfer Spencer’s death and issued a complacent statement which was unapologetic about cutting her care payments and misrepresented their housing “offers”. He had also been under pressure as a result of the policy of selling off Council homes which has led to the housing shortage. On Wednesday he handed in his resignation for “personal reasons” – see the second article below:
“Mr Wintour has recently been in the thick of the council’s defence of its handling of the Jennyfer Spencer case, the woman left in a fifth-floor council flat despite being confined to a wheelchair and a string of other health problems.
He accused the New Journal of sensationalist reporting despite the
public outcry surrounding the case.
Friends rally for Jennyfer Spencer - call for inquiry into death
Published: 6 May, 2010
of Jennyfer Spencer led a protest outside the Town Hall’s housing
office on Tuesday to demand a public inquiry into her death.
CNJ EXCLUSIVE - Camden Town Hall left stunned as housing boss Jim Wintour quits job
Popular director walks away just seven months after appointment
Published: 6 May, 2010
THE Town Hall’s top brass was left
shocked last night (Wednesday) as the man in charge of its massive
housing and social services department walked away from the job –
just seven months after being appointed.
One leading councillor has told the
New Journal in recent weeks “keeping Jim Wintour is the key” to the
smooth running of the housing share of the department, which has
been bashed from pillar to post particularly for its controversial
programme of selling off council homes.
Meric Apak, an ex-tenants leader in
Kentish Town who campaigned against the sell-offs, said last night:
“I think it is a loss for tenants.
It was for the first time in a very long that we had a director who
has been willing to come down and integrate and converse with
tenants. He climbed down from his ivory towers, which is more than
can be said for some of his predecessors.”
He accused the New
Journal of sensationalist reporting despite the public outcry
surrounding the case.
Jennyfer 'Alex' Spencer – the unanswered questions
Friends and neighbours hold vigil for disabled woman found dead in flat amid calls for investigation into her care
Camden New Journal, Published: 8 April 2010
by TOM FOOT
CANDLES were lit on Saturday for a “neglected” disabled woman who died after leaving a note addressed to the New Journal pleading for her case to be investigated.
Friends, family and disability rights campaigners recalled fond memories of Jennyfer Spencer, known locally as Alex, at a vigil for her on Gordon House Road on the Waxham Estate where she lived. The 46-year-old was found dead in her fifth-floor flat on March 1.
Ms Spencer’s death, one year after her care benefit payments were stopped, has led to calls for a public inquiry since the New Journal first reported the case two weeks ago.
Police are investigating cash withdrawals made from her bank account in the weeks after her death. It is understood they are also reading through Ms Spencer’s personal letters which raise concerns about her care.
Androulla “Angie” Angeli, 53, grew up with Ms Spencer when she was a pupil of Starcross, now Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, secondary school in Islington.
“She was a shy school girl – quite withdrawn as a teenager,” said Ms Angeli. “It was only in her early 20s that she came into herself and became a real jovial personality. I used to go out with her to the supermarket and everyone would be saying hello to her. She was the sort of person who would try and solve everyone’s problems.
“It breaks my heart to be talking about her in a past context. Nobody should have gone through what she did. She wasn’t found for a week after she died. I mean, where are we living? The system needs to be sorted out.”
Ms Spencer was confined to a wheelchair following a double stroke in 2003.
She had applied for a ground-floor council home and consulted lawyers after her social care plan was stopped following a review.
Camden Council insist they did everything within their power to help Ms Spencer, adding she had “a history of refusing to engage with social care services and the housing services despite ongoing attempts to provide her with support”. But in a letter to the New Journal written before her death, Ms Spencer said: “No human/ animal should have gone through life as I did.”
The New Journal went to Ms Spencer’s flat on Tuesday and found fire-scorched ceilings, bundles of clothes and an overpowering stench.
The wheelchair she spent the majority of her time in remains in the front room surrounded by religious paintings and old church pews.
The cause of Ms Spencer’s death has yet to be established.
Clare Glassman, from the disabled group Winvisible, said: “People want to know how she was left without help and the rehousing as well.
“We want a public inquiry.”
On the estate where Ms Spencer lived for seven years, frustration is growing with the council’s apparently blasé attitude to clearing her flat.
On Tuesday, housing officials warned neighbours, who spent the Easter weekend moving Ms Spencer’s belongings out of her home and cleaning the flat, to put everything back again.
Residents say it took environmental officers three weeks to clear up the property, despite repeated complaints, and now a strong odour has returned to the floor where she lived.
Ms Spencer’s aunt Vicky Jarpaul said: “What more did Alex need to prove for Camden housing authority to consider providing adequate or even basic conditions to improve the quality of her life?
“There are other questions to be answered. Who decided that Alex was spending her money inappropriately and she didn’t need a 24-hour carer? How do they know what Alex’s needs were?”
The coroner will not release Ms Spencer’s body for burial while police investigations are ongoing.
‘Her decisions’ – Tragic Alex ‘refused help offers’
Statement from Jim Wintour, Camden Council’s director of housing and adult social care:
“The Council has been greatly saddened by the death of Jennyfer Spencer, and the outpouring of sympathy and support from her neighbours and friends is testament to how well loved she was within her community. When a vulnerable member of society dies suddenly it is right that questions are asked and we will want to learn from this tragedy.
“However, the misleading and sensationalist reporting of your newspaper is not an accurate representation of the support and help offered to her by the Council.
“Ms Spencer met the eligibility for social care criteria, and we tried to provide her with the care she needed. Initially, we paid Ms Spencer direct payments, where people with additional care needs are given the money to pay for and choose the care they need. The payments are not meant to supplement income, but they are meant to support independent living. However, in this case Ms Spencer did not spend the money to buy the care she required, indeed, she did not spend the money at all. So a decision was taken to stop the direct payments, not because we assessed her as no longer ‘high risk’, but because she was not spending the money.
“To ensure her care needs were met, arrangements were made to provide care services directly and we arranged for care services to commence.
“Each time carers attended Ms Spencer’s flat they were refused entry. Ms Spencer was referred to our mental health service for an assessment but she did not attend the two appointments offered. She was not felt to be appropriate for statutory intervention and she did not lack capacity to make informed decisions about her care.
“Ms Spencer asked for a ground-floor two-bedroomed council flat. Five times we offered Ms Spencer such accommodation. Five times Ms Spencer refused. Again, we had no legal powers to force Ms Spencer to accept our offers of more suitable accommodation. The decision to move was hers, and hers alone and we had to respect her decision.
“Far from being left on her own the Council repeatedly tried to persuade Ms Spencer to receive help. We care about our vulnerable residents and want to provide appropriate support, but we have to balance this with their own freedom and right to make choices.”
Camden New Journal Comment - We can’t help but ask questions about Jennyfer’s life
Published: 8 April, 2010
IN many ways a sense of impotence on the part of council officials seems to run through the statement by Jim Wintour, director of housing and adult care, over the tragic death of Jennyfer Spencer.
In attacking this newspaper for being “misleading and sensationalist” Mr Wintour sets out to argue that, essentially, the council cannot be held responsible for the horrific circumstances surrounding Ms Spencer’s death.
blame, to some extent, Mr Wintour suggests lies with Ms Spencer
And just in case it may be asked why the council did not attempt to compel Ms Spencer to move, Mr Wintour assures readers that the council did not have legal powers to do so.
So who is to blame?
Effectively, not the council – says the council.
The council, as a landlord, of course has an indissoluble duty of care for its tenants.
Until full and proper documentation is provided by the council as to the exact nature of the offers of a ground-floor flat, and details of Ms Spencer’s replies, if any, in writing or verbal, are put into the public domain, we feel it is right to reserve our judgment.
Until information is placed before the public as to the full nature of the council’s legal advice, such as who gave it, and was it tested with the advice of senior barristers, we, again, feel judgment should be reserved.
We asked last week why the elected representatives did not appear to have become involved in the tragedy that was obviously building up.
They may have been, of course, but until they make public declarations about Ms Spencer’s tragic case, we are not to know.
Our columns were open this week to statements by any elected representative who may have tried to help Ms Spencer but, again, none came.
Instead, the only response came from an officer of the council.
In considering the events surrounding Ms Spencer’s life and death, it has to be borne in mind that for seven years, although severely paralysed and only able to get about in a wheelchair, she remained trapped in an upstairs flat – and that we are being asked to believe that during the whole of the time the council were an impotent and helpless body.
It is this we find hard to accept.