Left housebound

Cllr Declan McAlinden with Mrs Veronica McCann at the front door of her Derrytrasna home. INLM3212-125gc
Cllr Declan McAlinden with Mrs Veronica McCann at the front door of her Derrytrasna home. INLM3212-125gc

AN elderly disabled woman has been left housebound for weeks with a four feet drop outside her back door after a dispute between a builder and the Housing Executive.

Mrs Veronica McCann, aged 75, suffers from Parkinsons. The wheelchair-bound woman was told she would be getting a ramp and the builder began the work at the end of June.

Cllr Declan McAlinden at the site for the disabled ramp at Mrs McCann's home. INLM3212-126gc

Cllr Declan McAlinden at the site for the disabled ramp at Mrs McCann's home. INLM3212-126gc

However, after a few weeks, the builder, Mr Brian Lowe, came across a number of difficulties, including extra work moving a sewer at the Derrytrasna house. Despite several calls, Mr Lowe said the Housing Executive would not release interim payments he needed to cover costs of building materials to finish the job.

Mr Lowe, who specialises in disability work, said there had been a number of problems with payments from the executive lately and this had caused a serious cash flow problem and leading him to a £42,000 overdraft.

He said he was unable to pay for materials as well as workers and was forced to stop the job and other jobs in Lurgan until the interim payments came through.

However, this left Mrs McCann with absolutely no access at her home.

Cllr Declan McAlinden talks with builder Brian Lowe. INLM3212-127gc

Cllr Declan McAlinden talks with builder Brian Lowe. INLM3212-127gc

Since the death of her husband in 2009, she has been dependent on social services. Mrs McCann said being housebound had left her frightened particularly at night. “When I awake in the middle of the night, I hear sounds. If there was a fire how do I get out?”

She attends a day centre in Lurgan, however, social services will not provide transport as she has no ramp to get out of the house. She has had to pay £15 per journey to a Lurgan day centre with the taxi driver helping her in and out of the house.

Her son Fintan said it had been a long journey trying to get the ramp access and accused the authorities of prevaricating.

Mrs McCann had been delighted when the builder began work and was looking forward to gaining freedom to her garden and getting out and about.

However, Mr Lowe said he had been hitting a brick wall with the executive over payments since the office had moved from Marlborough House to Newry.

The family called in SDLP Cllr Declan McAlinden who contacted the executive. He has been given assurances that interim payments will be made to Mr Lowe.

Cllr McAlinden, who is in the building trade himself, said he understood the difficulty of small business such as Mr Lowe. “I know what it is like these last few years and it is not helping small businesses. It is maybe something the NIHE needs to look at so that businesses will not be adversely affected.”

Since the calls to the executive Mr Lowe said he has ordered supplies and work will start on the ramp by the end of the week. He said all bonds had been submitted and he expects the work on the Derrytrasna house to be finished within three to four weeks.