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Monday, September 5, 2011

Home fit for a hero? While £1m homes go to asylum seekers, a soldier who lost three limbs serving his country is put in a tiny flat..on the SIXTH foor

By Luke Salkeld

He lost three limbs in a bomb blast while serving in Afghanistan.

Now Private Alex Stringer is fighting another battle back home – against a housing allocation that has left him trapped in a tiny sixth floor flat.

As some families living solely on benefits are housed in multi-million-pound properties, the 20-year-old struggles in a flat so small he says he is unable to use his wheelchair indoors.

Cramped: Alex Stringer with fiance Danielle and their two children Millie and Harlie-Rose in the wet room

He cannot get into the kitchen or his daughter’s bedroom, and when the lifts for the building break down, he has no way of entering or leaving his home in Chadwell St Mary, Essex.

He said the council had installed a wet room but his injuries made sitting on a chair under the shower uncomfortable.

The tiny apartment appears entirely unsuited to the soldier’s needs.

In contrast, a family of refugees from Afghanistan lived in a £1.2million, seven-bedroom London mansion paid for by an astonishing £3,000 a week in housing benefits.

Private Stringer, of 23 Pioneer Regiment Royal Logistics Corps, had more than 30 operations after losing both legs, shattering his pelvis and suffering injuries so severe that his left arm had to be amputated at the elbow.

He still spends three weeks every two months at the Army’s rehabilitation centre in Headley Court, Surrey, and struggles at home with fiancée Danielle Taylor, 19, and daughters Millie, three, and Harlie-Rose, one this month.

They have been told by Thurrock Council there is a five-year waiting list for a more suitable home.

Private Stringer said: ‘I knew the risks when I signed up and I have no complaints about what happened to me or the Army.

‘But our flat is unsuitable for a triple amputee.

‘I want to be independent again. I rely on Danielle and friends for everything. It’s demoralising.’

His plight will be considered by many to be a clear breach of the Military Covenant – enshrined in law in July – under which the Army can expect to be provided with adequate housing.

Last night Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said of Private Stringer’s situation: ‘[He] deserves much better treatment than this.

‘I wonder how this accommodation compares to other council tenants who have not risked their lives in the service of their country?’

Private Stringer’s living conditions contrast sharply with those of the Afghan family whose controversial living arrangement, which first made headlines in 2008, led to an overhaul of the housing benefits system.

Toorpakai Saiedi and her family – granted leave to remain in Britain after claiming asylum – lived in a series of large properties, all paid for by local authorities, including the seven-bedroom home in Acton, West London.

A spokesman for Thurrock Council said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support Mr Stringer’s return to independence.’

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence added: ‘The MoD works closely with injured personnel to ensure that they can obtain accommodation which meets their specific needs.’



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