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Disabled Facilities Grants change lives

Published: Wed, 14 May 2014
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Tracy and Caolan are pictured with Christine Thompson, NE Grants in the new wet room
Disabled Facilities Grant work Antrim
The mother of a terminally ill Antrim teenager has said an extension to her home, made possible by a Housing Executive grant, has been a ‘godsend’.
Tracy Donnelly was the recipient of a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) enabling her to have a bedroom and wet room built onto her Antrim home for her 17 year old son Caolan, who suffers from a rare illness.
In the last year, our North East Grants office has invested £2.17 million in 252 schemes in the area. These grants helped owner occupiers, landlords and private tenants carry out adaptations, renovations and repairs to their properties.
Since April 2013, 220 Disabled Facilities Grants have been approved with 206 adaptations completed. The office also approved five Renovation Grants, 10 Home Repair Assistance Grants, one Replacement Grant and 46 Repair Grants.
Tracy is now encouraging other parents to take advantage of our disabled facilities grants scheme. Her son Caolan is one of only 500 young people in the world, and the only child in Northern Ireland, to have Niemann Pick, type C, a progressive neurological disease, for which there is currently no cure.
Caolan was born with the disease but was not diagnosed until he was 13 years old. Symptoms include poor spatial awareness, poor motor skills and balance. Caolan is unable to look up and down or from side to side and has dystonia and dementia.
Tracy, a social worker, says: “Caolan requires 24 hour care and cannot be left unsupervised. He has chronic fatigue so he’s unable to do many of the things he used to.
“It was obvious that Caolan’s room was not big enough and didn’t suit his needs and whilst he loved to have a bath, it was no longer an option and the shower posed problems as well. When he was diagnosed the occupational therapists came out, they were absolutely fantastic.”
They recommended an extra bedroom, wet room and ramped access for Caolan. Work started in February of 2013 and was completed in June.
Tracy added: “The space and privacy that Caolan now has is fantastic. I cannot put into words how much of a difference that the grant has made to all of our lives, especially to Caolan’s. It’s a total godsend. He loves his new bedroom and his wetroom.
Encouraging others to take up the grants, she said: “I would say 100 per cent avail of the grant because it makes a difference to your life. This has turned everything around for Caolan in terms of his personal care needs.
“The space is fantastic, it’s safer and it doesn’t look like a clinical hospital room. It’s a teenage boy’s bedroom and bathroom. The impact on our family life has been enormous. I couldn’t recommend the grants scheme highly enough.”
Ron Mitchell, Grants Manager for North East, said: “Disabled Facilities Grants, up to a maximum of £25,000, are paid to make the home of a person with a disability more suitable to their needs and improve the quality of their life.
“Since April 2013 we have approved 1,068 grants in Northern Ireland with work being completed in 1,001 properties making it easier for those households to live comfortably in their homes.
“The grants are for owner occupiers, landlords and private tenants provided  there is a person with disability living in the house and all work which is grant aided is based on the recommendations of an occupational therapist, in the Health and Social Services Trust.
“The work varies and is dependent on the individual needs of the person who has a disability. Typical works include making access in and around the house easier, widening doorways, altering existing bathroom or kitchen facilities to make them more suitable, providing level access shower facilities, ramped access, or providing a ground floor bedroom or shower room.  
“We also have arrangements with some independent agencies which provide elderly people or those with special needs with help through the grants process.
“Just as the work varies, so too does the amount of grant. This will depend on the approved cost of the work and the grant applicant’s financial circumstances, as some people may have a contribution to make towards the cost of the work. However, if the adaptations are for a child there is no financial assessment carried out.”
For further information and advice contact the the Grants office where a member of staff will be pleased to advise Tel 03448 920900 or visit: