Paralysed man’s fight to stay in town after he was told he must move to Peacehaven

Simon Gray has been paralysed from the chest down since he broke his neck in 2012. He is being moved to Peacehaven, away from his social support network.'Pic Steve Robards SUS-150225-115457001
Simon Gray has been paralysed from the chest down since he broke his neck in 2012. He is being moved to Peacehaven, away from his social support network.'Pic Steve Robards SUS-150225-115457001

Friends of a man originally from Newhaven, who was left paralysed from the chest down after breaking his neck, say they are not giving up the fight to stop him being moved from his ‘support network’.

Simon Gray, 42, broke his neck in 2012 after falling down the stairs. He said he doesn’t remember the three to four days he was lying on the ground following the fall, until he was found.

His friend noticed his curtains closed during the day and, after checking with a nearby pub if they had seen him, used a spare key and bolt cutters to get through the front door.

His spinal injury caused osteoporosis of the legs, meaning a fall or a bump can easily cause a fracture. Simon is also at a high risk of autonomic dysreflexia which can lead to fatal hyperextension, seizure and hemorrhage. After spending more than a year in spinal rehab, he moved to Disabilities Trust residential home Ernest Kleinwort Court in Burgess Hill, West Sussex. Though he grew up in Newhaven, he has built a support network in Burgess Hill, which he values hugely due to an intense ‘fear of being alone’.

As his stay at Ernest Kleinwort is temporary, East Sussex County Council now plans to move Simon to a bungalow in Peacehaven. “This is apparently to make me more independent, whereas it is in effect making me more dependent on carers and virtually a prisoner in my own home due to its location,” Simon said. Though he wants to live independently eventually, he wants it to be in the right place.

“I know no-one in Peacehaven at all, and even if I had the confidence to get on a bus, the nearest stop is 0.6km away from me - which I physically couldn’t do on the hilly terrain. I’m anxious of social situations, or anything new even if I’d done it before becoming disabled.”

His friends regularly visit him in Ernest Kleinwort but many would struggle to see him in Peacehaven.

A petition has been started by Simon’s friend Sharmila Lyons to stop him moving which has amassed more than 1,000 signatures, and Mid Sussex councillors have stepped in to voice their concerns.

MP for Mid Sussex Sir Nicholas Soames described the decision as ‘inhumane’. He said: “I believe it is an appalling decision, it’s not been thought through properly, there should be a thorough investigation.”

The MP will help Simon take his case to the ombudsman.

Mid Sussex councillor Pru Moore said ESCC is ‘forcing a paraplegic man to take accommodation that is not only temporary but not fit for purpose.’

She added Simon moves in less than a week to a home with ‘no furniture, a kitchen he cannot manage, a boiler he cannot reach and access he cannot manage.’