Dalkeith homeless woman: They told me my boy would wreck home

Toni Hemmings, Woodburn Avenue, Dalkeith
Toni Hemmings, Woodburn Avenue, Dalkeith

A disabled woman registered as homeless believes Melville Housing “discriminated” against her son leaving her family homeless.

Toni Hemmings (38), who has spinal problems and is registered disabled, was given notice from her previous address in Bonnyrigg by a private landlord on August 12.

On October 7, Melville Housing offered her a ground floor property in Dalkeith. However, on October 29, the day before viewing the property, and four days before Toni, her partner Christian McKenzie (38) and her six-year-old son Jack were due to move in, Melville Housing said they couldn’t move in to the property in case her son damaged the property due to his ‘ADHD’, a condition he has never been diagnosed with.

She said: “I just feel that they have really discriminated against my little boy.

“The fact is that Melville Housing put us forward for this house because I have got disabilities. My spine is crumbling. So they offered this property as it has a stair-lift. I don’t use a wheelchair but I walk with a walker.

“They phoned me at 3.15pm on October 29 and said that because Jack has ADHD he would dismantle 
the stair-lift.

“I said ‘A - he hasn’t got ADHD. And B - he wouldn’t touch the stair-lift’.

“I was quite shocked.

“He is the type of boy that if you draw a line he won’t step over it. I can’t explain it, it’s like mental block.

“The occupational therapist said that Jack had ADHD. But they have not met us.

“So I don’t know where they got that from. They just plucked it out of the air.

“I think it’s discrimination because how can you use a child’s mental health disability to not give somebody a house?

“They then said that someone needed the stair-lift more than I do. But they have never met me, so how do they know?

“You just can’t use a child as a reason for not giving someone a house.

“What we’ve been through, it’s horrendous.”

Toni and her family are currently living in emergency accommodation in Dalkeith provided by 
Midlothian Council.

Melville defended the decision of its occupational therapist, but apologised for the way the case was handled. And it said a review has been carried out to ensure that no offer of tenancy is made before the occupational therapist 
reaches a decision again.

A spokesperson for Melville Housing Association said: “We never take a decision to refuse a homeless nomination lightly.

“We received a nomination for a property which had specific medical adaptations. Adapted properties are extremely scarce and we must ensure that when allocating an adapted property it meets the needs of the new tenants. We have several applicants on the waiting list that desperately need the special facilities this property has.

“We do appreciate, however, that anyone on the waiting list in such a situation would be extremely disappointed and we are sorry about the way it was handled. Unfortunately, in this instance, the fact the property was unsuitable only came to the attention of the Occupational Therapist, who makes these decisions, after contact had been made with the prospective tenant. 

“We have reviewed our procedures to make sure that, in future, nominations are reviewed by the Occupational Therapist service before we make an offer of tenancy.”