For ‘Father’ read ‘the State’. At least, if some people get their way…
In Long Eaton:
A coroner wants authorities to be allowed to enter the homes of obsessive hoarders after hearing how a woman was found dead beneath a pile of rubbish following a fire at her home.
Yes, clearly, there’s no harm in giving the council staff more powers, is there? No unforeseen consequences? And I’m quite sure they’d use them wisely, and never abuse them, or use them to silence unwelcome voices…
Local authorities only have the power to enter private houses where there is a risk to public health – but not when they suspect a fire hazard.
Paul McCandless, Derby and South Derbyshire Assistant Deputy coroner, said: “I will write to the relevant Department of State, as that is something that should be given proper consideration to. Local authorities should have the power to enter the house if they have cause to believe that there is hoarding going on within the property and one that does pose a fire risk.”
A concerned councillor issued a warning two years ago about twin sisters found dead in Upper Norwood on Monday following a suspected carbon monoxide leak.
Pat Ryan, who lives on the same road as Jackie and Stephanie Berry in Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood, fired off an e-mail to Croydon Council in March 2010, saying there were issues that needed to be “addressed urgently”.
In his e-mail, Cllr Ryan called for the pair’s mental health and antisocial behaviour to be looked into.
Just what is it that Cllr Ryan thinks the council could have done?
He said: “I have been in touch with the council, but every time there has been nothing positive done.
“This shouldn’t have happened in the 21st century, there were enough opportunities for social services to get seriously involved in what is a tragic case.
“You could clearly see they were undernourished. They were very slim, but not a healthy slim.
“I know there are rules and regulations and the council can’t go barging into people’s properties. I wouldn’t expect them to.
“Nevertheless it was so obvious something was going wrong and it should have been addressed.”
But you cannot (yet!) force people to accept ‘help’:
The council said the Berry sisters did not come to them for help and officials went round several times, but were turned away.
It seems some people are very reluctant to accept that there’s a balance to be struck between personal freedom (which must necessarily include the freedom to be introverted, or even eccentric and reclusive) and the coercive power of the State to interfere in people’s lives.
And yes, that may mean they live them – and sometimes die – not in accordance with others’ wishes. But the alternative is unthinkable.