‘It feels like Government doesn’t care a damn about people like us’

Spinal injury sufferer Mary Carey was refused a grant to adapt her home in Navan Co Meath

Spinal injury sufferer Mary Carey was refused a grant to adapt her home. As Mary is unable use the stairs to reach the bathroom, she is forced to wash herself with a basin and sponges.


Mary Carey (64), who has had a spinal injury for 20 years and cannot walk unaided, lives with her husband John (72) in a small house just off the Dublin road, in Navan, Co Meath.

He sleeps upstairs while she, unable to get up the stairs, sleeps in a single bed in a back room where the couple also eat meals. She needs help getting into and out of the tiny downstairs toilet and has no access to a bath or shower.

“I wash myself with this basin,” she says, showing a blue, plastic basin on the bed containing a sponge, a plastic cup and shampoo. “It is embarrassing. You want to be able to do things like wash yourself, by yourself. It might seem silly to some people, but it means a lot to me.”

‘No privacy’

She no longer likes visitors coming to the house. “They’d be passing through the room where I sleep. Especially in the summer, people want to go to the garden. I have no privacy.”

The couple, who have a combined income of €376 a week, applied to Meath County Council last April for a home adaptation grant to install a stair lift, an accessible shower and ramp into the house.

The estimated cost of the works is €12,000. A public health nurse visited in May to assess their needs and reported to the council.

‘Medical priority 1'

Their application was categorised as ‘Medical Priority 1’, as Mary is “fully or mainly dependent on family or carer” and the “alterations/ adaptations would facilitate discharge from hospital or alleviate the need for hospitalisation in the future”.

On June 5th, however, they received a letter from the council telling them “all available funding [for grants] for 2013 has now been allocated” and so it was with “regret” that they were being turned down. In October, the council wrote again to them, advising them to fill in a review form to enable consideration of their application in the 2014 budget.

Meath County Council’s allocation for all housing adaptation and mobility grants has been cut severely by the Department of the Environment since 2011 when it was €1.4 million, to €997,208 in 2012, to just €487,123 last year.

A council spokeswoman said as of December 31st it still had applications for €1.3 million worth of grants on hand.

“Included in these unapproved applications are 35 Priority 1 applications to a value of €479,634,” she said. Funding for this year has not been announced.

‘Fulfil all criteria’

Local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has been advocating for the couple. “This couple fulfil all the criteria for this grant. If it was any other entitlement they would have it. The budget for these grants should be based on need, not on an auditing exercise.”

Asked what it would mean to get the grant, Mary closes her eyes. “Oh, it would mean so much. It would mean I could fall asleep beside John again. With his heart condition sometimes I don’t sleep because I worry he might have died in the night. It would mean so much, not just physically, but in here too,” she says, laying her hand over her chest.

‘It’s horrible’
John worries what will happen to Mary if something happened to him. “It is hard, and getting harder by the day. I’d do anything for that woman,” he says smiling towards Mary. “But it’s horrible. They say the economy is rising and yet we are being banged down and down. It feels like this Government doesn’t care a damn about people like us.”