Reunited: The Loving Couple Of 69 Years

 Welfare officials yesterday backed down to allow a war hero and his wife to stay together after almost 69 years of marriage. Syd Rowley, 91, was heartbroken after being told that his 90-year-old wife Blanche would have to live at a residential home while he stayed at their bungalow. It meant they would be apart for the first time since Syd returned home at the end of the Second World War after fighting the Japanese.

The Daily Express highlighted their plight, describing the decision to separate the couple as “shabby and cruel”, while Age Concern said it was “outrageous”.

The council has since performed a U-turn and said that it could, after all, provide the extra £400 a week to allow Syd and Blanche to share the twilight of their lives together in a bright, sunny room in the home a mile from the bungalow where they have lived for 17 years.

After insisting it was bound by Department of Health guidelines which meant that Syd should remain in his own house being looked after by home helps, the authority held an emergency review following the adverse publicity.

Then it announced that the extra expense was, in fact, “necessary”.

Syd broke down and wept when told yesterday. But his daughter, Sheila Stockill, 68, told the Daily Express: “While I am delighted at the outcome, my mum and dad should never have been put in this position. The authorities say there had not been a mistake but someone, somewhere must have taken the decision which was blatantly wrong. They have assured me that no one else will be put in the same situation and I would like to think that will be the case.”

Blanche needed residential care after suffering a stroke and was moved into the Ingersley Court care home in Bollington Cheshire. At first, social workers assured Syd he would be able to stay with her and staff moved a second bed into her room. But, after an assessment, Syd was told he must remain at home even though he suffers from prostate cancer, has had two heart attacks and is arthritic, which means he is unable to dress himself.

As he held Blanche’s hand Syd, who was a standard bearer at the funeral of Lord Mountbatten in 1979, said: “I was beside myself with worry and knew I couldn’t manage without her. I spent last night just sitting in a chair thinking about what was happening to us. I am not too proud to say I cried because I didn’t see any future without Blanche.

“Then, when I heard the council had changed their minds, I cried again but this time with happiness. I love Blanche as much now as I did when we got married and it is just wonderful to know we can be together.”

His daughter added: “I still find it difficult to understand how social services could interpret their circumstances the way they did.”

John Weeks, director of Cheshire community services, said: “Cases of this sort are extremely complex. Social workers have to only spend public money when absolutely necessary. We always review a situation when the parties are troubled. When I discovered that this was the case I decided there should be a further assessment as a matter of urgency.”