Mix-up means disabled girl is stuck in unsuitable home

Andrew Byrne and his partner Justine Miller with their three-year-old daughter Ellie.
Andrew Byrne and his partner Justine Miller with their three-year-old daughter Ellie.
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THE parents of a disabled toddler say they face a daily struggle after waiting eight months to move home.

Three-year-old Ellie Byrne has cerebral palsy caused by brain damage when she was born at just 27 weeks, leaving her unable to walk.

In September, dad Andrew and mum Justine Miller, both 23, asked landlord Gentoo if they could move from their two-bedroomed terrace home in Wright Terrace, Shiney Row, to any bungalow available.

Occupational therapists have carried out reports, which the family say approve the move, but eight months on they are still waiting.

Gentoo said they had been waiting for Sunderland City Council to send them the report, but have now just received it and promised to work with the couple to get them a new home.

Andrew, who has put his work as a chef on hold to help his partner as they care for Ellie, said: “We feel like we’re being fobbed off. Somebody says they’ll get back to you but then you have to phone again.

“We’ve really put pressure on since February, ringing them every three or four days, sometimes every day.”

Andrew and Justine say they struggle to lift Ellie up and down the stairs and cannot install safety gates because of the design of the house.

The youngster gets upset because she cannot be independent or left in her room to play.

Andrew added: “She likes to play in her bedroom, but we can’t leave her in there because she doesn’t like the door shut.

“But it’s really taken its toll on Justine, she’s got a lot of problems with her hips and we have to do a lot of carrying.”

In a fortnight, Ellie will go into hospital for botox injections, followed by a procedure to put her right leg in cast to straighten it out, offering her the best chance of being able to walk for herself.

Ellie’s premature birth also caused her to suffer from brain haemorrhages, although they have now stopped.

The youngster goes to Barnwell Day Care and is due to start Sunningdale School in Sunderland in September, when Andrew plans to return to work.

Justine is a care worker and has taken a career break as she looks after their daughter.

Michelle Meldrum, managing director of Gentoo Operations, said: “At Gentoo, we aim to provide our customers with a property fit for their needs and in situations such as this, there is a multi-agency process.

“We will continue to work with Sunderland City Council and Mr Byrne to ensure a suitable property is found for him and his family.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Social Services, added: “Working with our partners at Gentoo, our shared commitment is to ensure that suitable housing is found for those that need it.

“We will continue to provide any necessary help and advice to make the process of relocation as quick and efficient as possible for Mr Byrne and his family.”