Family’s anger at disabled cash wrangle
THE mother of a Lybster man paralysed as a result of a car crash has spoken of her grief at having to wait months to take her son home from hospital in Inverness after attempts to secure financial assistance from Highland Council to help install a stair lift were rejected.
Syd Morrice and her husband, George, said their son Kevin could have been home nine months ago if they were given approval for the disability grant when they first applied.
After spending 17 months in hospital rehabilitating after being a passenger in the car accident at Murkle in February 2012, Kevin (38) finally arrived home at Southend on Tuesday.
In October, meetings were held with representatives from the housing and social work department to obtain a grant of £3385 to install an outdoor all-weather aluminium stair lift to allow Kevin to enter and leave their house.
But the application was rejected as it was claimed officials thought the stair lift would become damaged due to the elements, forcing Kevin to remain at Raigmore Hospital.
However, seven months later, Highland Council made a U-turn and gave the approval for the work to be carried out.
Mrs Morrice this week blasted the authority for taking so long to help her son come back home, saying it showed a lack of respect for the disabled.
"We had several meetings at the hospital about what they could do to accommodate Kevin coming home," she said.
"We found a company that could do an outdoor stair lift but officials refused the idea as they thought the stair lift would corrode in outdoor conditions — only to approve it seven months later.
"They played us, it went on for months. Kevin should have been home a long time ago, the only thing stopping it happening was access to the house.
"We shouldn’t have to fight for it, we didn’t ask for the earth, we just wanted to bring our son home."
In January, the family obtained a quote to have an elevator ramp installed at their back door but, due to access being blocked by a sewage system in their garden, it would have cost £25,000 to implement — this proposal was also rejected by Highland Council officials. But, after reapplying for the £3385 grant for the aluminium stair lift, together with pointing out the cost for work at the back garden, the grant was given the green light in May and work was completed earlier this month.
Mrs Morrice is angry her son, who had worked since he left school, was ignored for so long.
"It makes me mad when I hear stories of bed-blocking in hospital because there is nowhere for patients to go.
"Kevin was bed-blocking because he was not given a grant he was entitled to that meant he could have come home.
"He worked all his life as have my husband and I — there are people out there who have never worked a day in their life who get as much benefits as they want.
"I don’t begrudge anyone receiving help who really needs it but the system is wrong."
The couple have made adjustments inside the house to accommodate Kevin’s homecoming, financing the work out of their own pocket as well as using money raised by village residents at several fundraising events.
Thurso councillor Donnie Mackay, who worked with landward councillor Willie Mackay and John Thurso MP to get the case resolved, said it was "insulting" to the Morrice family and lessons need to be learned to make sure no other family goes through the same thing.
"It’s a bloody disgrace it took so long, it shows there’s no care in the community left whatsoever," he said.
"Some of these people should not be in jobs if they could not see how urgent it was to provide disabled access at his house.
"Keeping him in hospital costs between £300 and £400 a day – to have installed a ramp or lift earlier would have saved the taxpayer money and would have been better for Kevin and his family.
"There are other cases in Caithness which the system is letting down, the whole system needs to be re-evaluated."
Highland Council did not offer a response at the time of going to press yesterday.