Hitchin woman with multiple sclerosis fighting urgent care battle

Edith Solenne from Hitchin is fighting to avoid going into a care home. Picture: JP Asher

Edith Solenne from Hitchin is fighting to avoid going into a care home. Picture: JP Asher

Archant

A 30-year-old Hitchin woman who lives with multiple sclerosis faces the effective choice of giving up work or moving into a residential home unless new carers can be found for her.

Edith Solenne works as a chartered accountant and lives in an adapted flat. For 18 months she has got by with two daily visits from care assistants funded by Herts County Council – one at 7am to enable her to get up, and another at 8.30pm to help her wash, change clothes and get ready for bed.

But in February her care agency gave 90 days’ notice on its contract, citing staff shortages in the area – and the county council still hasn’t found a replacement.

Edith was brought to tears when her social worker told her that if no agency were found, she would have to move out of her flat and find a care home. She had been set to lose her carers last Friday, but a temporary reprieve means she now needs a solution by next Sunday – May 27.

Speaking to the Comet in her kitchen, she said firmly: “This is my home. This is a longer-term solution than anything else.”

Edith, who was diagnosed with MS when she was 16, has had her situation highlighted nationally by Guardian columnist Frances Ryan and BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire show in the past week.

In her column, Dr Ryan said underfunding and staff shortages meant people in Edith’s position were increasingly being urged by authorities “to go into an institution as a ‘solution’ to their poor care packages, despite being in their own homes for years.”

The county council says it is still seeking other care agencies for Edith, and has offered her two other care slots.

But Edith said she was offered 9.30am and 6.45pm – which would mean waking up half an hour after she needs to start work, and going to bed 15 minutes before she usually gets home. She has been ringing care agencies herself to look for a solution, to no avail.

“I’m asking for a 7am call, 8am at weekends, and 8.45pm bed calls – nothing controversial,” said Edith. “I’m so frustrated at having to put so much work into just getting out of bed each day.

“There just aren’t enough carers. The system doesn’t work. How many other people has this happened to on the quiet?”

A county council spokeswoman said: “We are working very hard to find a solution for Edith, and we are in regular contact with her to keep her updated on our progress.

“In Hertfordshire there is a shortage of care workers and we desperately need more. We are encouraging people to think about careers in care and how they might be able to make a real difference.”

If you’re a carer and think you might be able to help Edith, contact JP Asher on 01438 866083 or jp.asher@thecomet.net.

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