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Council takes nurse suffering from panic attacks to court for refusing to return to Chalcots towers

Andrea, 43, says evacuation of council estate has led to panic attacks

23 October, 2017 — By William McLennan

The Chalcots towers were evacuated in June amid fire safety fears

A MOTHER who is being taken to court by Camden Council for refusing to move back to a high-rise block evacuated over fire risks says she has been left housebound by panic attacks triggered by the ordeal.

Andrea, who requested her second name not be published, said she has been unable to work for the past three months after existing mental health problems were exacerbated by the ­dramatic operation to move 3,000 people out of the Chalcots estate in June.

The 43-year-old nurse said: “When we went back to Taplow, to pick up the post, I had a ­panic attack. From then on my health has deteriorated. I haven’t been able to work since August. I don’t go out. I’m experiencing panic attacks at home.”

Andrea, along with her husband Alen and three children, moved to temporary accommodation in Highgate that was provided by the council while emergency works were carried out at the block in Adelaide Road. They refused to move home in August when the first wave of works were completed and are now facing eviction. Camden Council will seek a possession order at Central London County Court tomorrow (Tuesday).

It is understood that the Highgate flat has been promised to another family, who are themselves stuck in unsuitable accommodation. The council say that Andrea must move back to Taplow before she can make an application to swap homes. But the family say that her mental state prevents them from returning.

She suffered a nervous breakdown in 2014 and was forced to take six months’ leave from her role as theatre nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. In March this year she stopped taking anti-anxiety medication thanks to years of therapy, but the stressful evacuation led her condition to deteriorate.

Andrea said: “The reason why I feel that I can’t go back is that it gives me this overwhelming feeling of being trapped. You can’t reason it. “This is a disability. In my eyes I’m being discriminated against.”

She added: “I’m not saying I want to stay here and I don’t want to move out. I am asking [the council] to acknowledge what is happening and take the responsibility [to find somewhere other than Taplow for the family to live].”

Alen, 45, said: “We don’t want to take anybody’s home or deny any family a home. We are asking Camden to speak to us and try to resolve the situation.”

Stephen Buckley, of mental health charity Mind, said: “Everyone can relate to feeling anxious from time to time, perhaps when speaking in public or meeting new people, but for people with severe anxiety it can be so debilitating that it forces them to withdraw from social life altogether, and sometimes makes it difficult for them to leave the house.”

He added: “Panic attacks can be especially frightening. “You might feel like you are completely losing control, going to faint or even going to die.”

Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of AnxietyUK, said: “Anxiety manifests in differing degrees of severity from mild anxiety through to more severe and disabling presentations.  Anxiety UK always recommends that those affected by anxiety, where the anxiety is troublesome and beginning to impact on daily life, consult their GP so that help may be put in place at an early stage.”

A Camden Council spokesman said: “Many people across Camden and in the Chalcots are in housing need, living in overcrowded situations or unsuitable accommodation. Due to this we have to ensure that all the properties provided to Chalcots families as temporary accommodation are made available to families who have previously been allocated them and are patiently waiting for a home they need.”

He added: “There are 718 homes and around 3,000 residents on the Chalcots estate and all except one family have returned from their temporary accommodation in other council flats. “The council has offered and continues to offer support to residents who have requested assistance to return to their homes during this time or who require specialist support.”

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