An African husband who took his elderly British wife to a care home for respite while he went to Gambia is threatening to go on hunger strike after she was not allowed to return to him. Ousman Jatta, 45, married wife Beryl, 88, in Gambia 13 years ago and moved back to the UK with her when she became ill with dementia in 2006. Mr Jatta, who is his wife's carer, had taken her to a care home in February while he returned to Africa for three weeks.
But when he went to pick her up he was told social services had intervened and ruled she could not go home with him. Mr Jatta had threatened to go on hunger strike unless Bristol City Council hand over his wife, who he says has pleaded to return home to her husband. 'They have used their power against me to keep my wife in a nursing home against her and my wishes,' said the supermarket security worker.
'I care for her better than anyone and I feel very sad. 'Every time I go to the Gambia I contact social services for respite, but they never told me they were going to keep my wife. 'To me Beryl is not old, she is a human being and no matter if she is old or young she is my wife. 'I would never neglect Beryl. I love Beryl. I'm feeling bad to see her in a nursing home whilst I am ready to look after my own wife.
'As soon as I came to this country I'm looking after her and nothing has happened to her. 'I don't say that the nursing home is bad but to me the belief I have is that you take a person to a home if that person has no-one to look after her but as far as Beryl is concerned, I am ready to look after her until God finalises.' Retired shop worker Mrs Jatta moved to the Gambia more than 17 years ago and met Mr Jatta when he helped translate for her in a local shop. The pair became firm friends and dated for four years before they got married in 2002. But they were forced to come back to the UK when Mrs Jatta fell ill and doctors advised the mother-of-two that she would get better treatment at her home in Bristol. Mr Jatta became her primary carer along with local authority carers who visit during the day while he is at work.
|Mr Jatta featured in promotional material for Bristol City Council but is now at odds with the local authority over the way he feels he and his wife have been treated|
He booked her in for respite care at Avon Lodge Care Centre in Bristol while he went on a break to the Gambia on February 5, telling him he would be back in three weeks. But when he called on February 27 to say he would pick her up the next day, he was told he couldn't collect her and had to telephone social workers for more information. 'I asked why and they said "contact social services",' he said. 'It was a weekend so I called social services on Monday morning and the only thing they told me was they thought I was tired and this and that and that I had left her.
'I have said in the past that I am tired and that some time in the future I might need to leave her, but I have never abandoned Beryl. 'I have access to her when I go to the nursing home to see Beryl but as far as I'm concerned it's not the best place for her to be. 'I promised to myself and to God I shall never let her down. Beryl is my first priority. 'I am used to Beryl - we are used to each other. 'When I finish work at 10 o'clock she will not go to bed and tells her carers she is waiting for her husband.'
A legal expert who specialises in health and welfare said social workers do not have the power to keep someone against their will. 'They don't have that over-riding say,' said Fiona McGhie from Irwin Mitchell. 'They can form a view and put forward a view of what they think might be in someone's best interested, which may or may not be the same as the family members.
'But ultimately there there's a dispute it needs to go to the Court of Protection, as nobody has got that tight to make a decision either way. 'It doesn't matter how well motivated these decisions or those views are, the rule is for the court to make that final decision.' The authority says it has now agreed an 'appropriate care plan', and are understood to be in discussion with Mr Jatta over the future of his wife's care - but she is currently still in a home.
Mr Jatta is confident the council will relent and allow his wife to leave, but is angry at the how he and his wife have been treated. A spokesman for Bristol City Council said: 'We have been in regular contact with Mr Jatta over a period of time regarding his wife's care and are pleased to have agreed an appropriate care plan with him which puts the best interests of Mrs Jatta first.'