By David Raleigh
The case of a Limerick couple who are “begging” for financial assistance to adapt their home to suit the needs of their seriously disabled son, is expected to be raised in the Dáil next week.
Shane Enright, aged four and a half, who has a severe form of cerebral palsy, and was born with a hole in his heart and multiple cysts on his brain, uses a wheelchair, a walking aid, and a standing aid.
His desperate parents, Richard and Caroline Enright, said they cannot afford to make their 20-year old three bedroom bungalow family home more accessible for Shane, who was born fifteen weeks early and weighing a mere 835 g.
The couple, from Templeathea, Athea, Co Limerick, have two other children Aaron (14), and Kaliyah (11).
Mr Enright said, an occupational therapy assessment of their son’s needs has stated that Shane requires a disabled bathroom with a hoist to lift him into a bath; a wet room; and a room to store his medical equipment.
Shane needs constant monitoring and his mother sleeps with him in a cramped box room which also contains his medical equipment.
Mr Enright, who has chronic arthritis, is independent on crutches and his wife has kidney disease and back problems.
Mr Enright said, they are not suitable for a bank loan because of their health and financial situation, and that their bank has turned down a request by the couple to vary the terms of their mortgage.
Mr Enright earns “around €35,000” per annum, while his wife earns €117 per week as a full-time carer for their son.
“We can't get a loan from the bank, and we can't go to the credit union because we already have loans there, and we don't have savings ,” Mr Enright added.
Mr Enright applied to Limerick City and County Council for a €30,000 Housing Adaptation Grant for disabled persons, however after the Council applied a statutory means test, they advised Mr Enright he would be entitled to only €15,500.
A Council spokesman said: “We do not comment on individual cases but we are bound by a means test scale set by the Department of the Environment, Housing and Local Government and apply maximum grant aid when allowed."
“We are literally begging for help. We are not looking for handouts either; if someone gave us a loan, we'd pay it back,” Mr Enright said.
The couple said they are currently only capable of washing their son “once a week” because they have to "arrange for a third party to help" them bath Shane, who “weighs 25kg”.
“We go to bed crying. It's horrific. It's a scandal ,” Mr Enright added.
The family's earnings go towards covering the cost of their mortgage (€800 p/m) as well as a family health insurance policy costing €5,000.
“We had to buy a special needs car too. We did get a break on the VAT and VRT, but what I can't understand is why we can't get the same for our house,” Mr Enright said.
The cost of making their home more disabled friendly has been estimated at between €80,000-€100,000.
Minister of State for Disability, Finian McGrath has written a letter to the family stating he has no responsibility for the allocation of housing grants for disabled persons.
The minister also apologised after a six month delay in responding to Mr Enright who had written to the minister in October 2017 outlining their situation.
"The minister is completely out of touch. So is the minister for housing. They are all out of touch," Mr Enright claimed.
Fianna Fáil TD, Niall Collins, said the Enright family had been “left down by the system”.
"I hope to raise it in the Dáil next week. The system effectively means there is nowhere where they can get the help they need."
"They are a family with multiple health problems who are paying their mortgage, and because Richard is on an income, they doesn't qualify for help or supports.”
“They are falling between the cracks. They have no certainty, and they can't borrow money to build the accommodation for their son.”