JENNYFER SPENCER: ‘WHEN YOU READ THIS, I’LL BE DEAD’
Thursday, 25th March 2010
Published: 25 March, 2010
EXCLUSIVE by TOM FOOT
THE New Journal today fulfils the wish of a “neglected” disabled woman by publishing details of her lone struggle for social care from beyond the grave.
Jennyfer Spencer, 45, left a letter addressed to our newsdesk in her council flat which said: “No human or animal should ever go through life as I did.”
It was only found, as she predicted, after she was found dead on March 1.
Neighbours are hoping to raise funds to give her a proper burial.
In the letter, Ms Spencer, who was confined to a wheelchair after a stroke, asked for her words to be published as a “last will and testament” and that her “situation in life” be made public.
She had waged a seven-year battle with the Town Hall over her requests to be moved from her fifth-floor home into a flat on the ground floor and also detailed how her social care payments were cancelled.
The letter said that by the time New Journal reporters read the note she would be “officially dead”.
Prone to regular blackouts and partly paralysed by her stroke in 2003, friends and neighbours have told how Ms Spencer felt “neglected”. Camden Council have strongly refuted the claims, insisting housing officials made repeated efforts to re-house Ms Spencer and that her care payments were cancelled because she was not spending them correctly.
But Ms Spencer’s neighbours say the Town Hall should be facing up to the fact that a vulnerable and seriously disabled woman spent years without carers and struggled to live independently for seven years in a home provided for her by the council.
Ms Spencer, known to her friends as Alex, was discovered in her flat in the Waxham estate in Mansfield Road, Gospel Oak. It is not known how long she had been dead. Police were called after water began leaking into the flats beneath her home. A coroner is investigating the cause of death and an inquest has not yet been opened.
Friends and neighbours say they are “disgusted” after council environmental health officers did not clean up the flat until March 19 – despite repeated complaints.
Ms Spencer’s friend Paula Moir, 27, said: “To be left like that for three weeks it’s just disgusting. The smell was really terrible. It was making us all ill.”
“Alex had no carer, no home support. We would help her as much as we could with her needs.
“The flat had not been adapted, there were no rails, no Careline button installed. She would kind of hoist herself up on the furniture to move about.
“Sometimes she would sit outside the flat summoning the energy to move in.
“She suffered a hell of a lot. I remember finding her in the lift when it got stuck. She looked at me and said, ‘I thought I was going to be here all night’.
“She was fighting all her time – she wrote this letter to the Camden New Journal so that the paper could take up her case. When I came across it after her death, I thought, ‘I want to respect her wishes’.”
Ms Moir said that despite her problems, Ms Spencer was always polite and one of the most popular women on the estate. She remembered how she would buy little trinkets from charity shops for her daughter and would post presents through neighbours’ letterboxes at Christmas.
Ms Spencer, a former primary school teacher and catering manager, moved into Waxham around 10 years ago – but after two years she was hit by the stroke that left her paralysed and blind in one eye. Neighbours and friends said Ms Spencer had lost contact with her family in the last few years.
Close friend Amaani Raimi, who lives in Gospel Oak, said: “She was like my sister, I feel like my right arm has gone. She was like a flower – it makes you smile every day.
“She was confident and would always leave you feeling happy. She needed 24-hour care – she needed people day and night. She was fighting for that all the time – she wanted people who are disabled not to be forgotten.”
A spokeswoman for Camden Council said Ms Spencer was not considered “high risk” and that she had failed to attend meetings she had set up herself with social services. Despite accepting they made direct social care payments for her to employ carers over many years, the council claims Ms Spencer was able to take care of herself.
A council spokeswoman said: “We were sorry to learn of the death of Ms Spencer and our thoughts are with those who knew her. Unfortunately Ms Spencer had a history of refusing to engage with social care services and the housing services despite ongoing attempts to provide her with support.
“The council offered Ms Spencer two-bedroom wheelchair access accommodation on more than five occasions since 2004 but she refused all of the offers. She was able to manage her own self care and was not in receipt of ongoing social care support.”
The spokeswoman added: “The council were made aware of Ms Spencer’s death by the police on Monday, March 8. Before any cleaning of the property could be undertaken, it was necessary to liaise with the police and the coroner’s office to clarify details of Ms Spencer’s family and friends, some of whom had access to the property. Once this was done, the property was cleaned on March 19.”
A police spokeswoman said: “On March 1, Camden police attended an address in Mansfield Road. Police were called after neighbours reported hearing running water coming from the address. Upon entering, officers found a 45-year-old deceased women. The death is not suspicious.”