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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Homeless couple forced to move on

July 03 2010
HIV+ pair were housed on remote island three hours from essential hospital treatment

A homeless couple has been forced to move from Argyll and Bute after a council housed them hours from a hospital equipped with the HIV facilities they need.

Peter Munro and his partner Jay Turner, who are both HIV positive and require frequent life-saving treatment, take a ferry and two trains to Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow - a journey lasting as long as three hours.

In September 2009, Turner's CD4 blood count dropped to a dangerous level of just 30. He was admitted to an intensive care unit and his condition has deteriorated since.

Now, the couple claim that their accommodation issues are aggravating the condition.

"My partner is in a critical condition, he uses a walking stick, becomes very breathless and can barely walk. The council have failed to appreciate this fact when they housed us on a remote island," Mr Munro said.

"Hospital transport cannot always be provided due to our geographical location. Jay and myself have missed very important appointments and we become more isolated everyday."

In response, Argyll and Bute Council advised the couple to terminate their temporary tenancy contracts and seek accommodation from a different local authority. The council confirmed it will help facilitate a move to Brighton, as recommended by hospital consultants, where Munro has family to care for them.

But a spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council said there had been "no shortcomings" on their part.

She told us: "The Munro and Turner case has been handled professionally and sympathetically. Social workers have dedicated significant time and resource to find a solution in what has been a challenging case and we will continue to work with Mr Munro and Turner to facilitate their move to Brighton."

However, Munro claims that after providing 28 days' notice to terminate their temporary tenancy - as requested by the council - the housing team has been unable to secure them accommodation in Brighton.

"Due to the fact that we handed in our notice, we gave our carpets away and our belongings are all packed but we strongly feel that the social work team within Argyll and Bute Council are simply not doing enough to help us find a home," he said.

A spokesman from Brighton and Hove Council said the demand for housing was "very competitive" in the South-East. Jason Warriner, clinical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Common sense dictates that travelling by ferry and then trains is detrimental to the treatment required for HIV patients.

"Choice is a right in terms of NHS facilities. Unfortunately, in rural and remote areas of Scotland this right can not always be exercised."

He continued: "Where hospital transport isn't available, individuals should look to claim expenses for private travel when there are simply no other alternatives because of where you live, or where you have been housed."