Disabled need modified houses. How much should the public pay?

Jennifer Sosich moved to Eltham in search of a better life and believes she is being penalised for the decision because she is disabled.

Sosich, 40, suffers from a joint disease called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and is wheelchair-bound, with limited use of her arms.

Six months ago she moved from Rotorua to Eltham in Taranaki with her 10-year-old son, into what she calls her “forever home”.

The home needed considerable modifications to make it suitable for her to live in.

But her application for government funding to make those alterations was turned down because Enable NZ ruled that she bought the house for “social and financial reasons” and moved for “personal preference”.”Any other able-bodied person can move for those reasons,” Sosich said.

“It really shouldn’t be this hard, the kind of battles people with disabilities endure, just to live comfortably and have as much dignity and quality of life as we possibly can, is disgusting and continuous.”

She  moved from a house that was already modified for her. These modifications were paid for by you and me. 

Without the funding to make alterations to her bathroom she cannot have a shower and must instead wash herself with a flannel.

The ramp she has to her front door is on loan from the Taranaki District Health Board and if needed elsewhere could be taken away, leaving her fearful she will have no way to get in or out of her house.

She had previously received funding from Enable NZ for similar modifications to her Rotorua home, something Sosich said she was extremely grateful for.

But she said much of her motivation for moving from her Rotorua home was because she could not afford to undertake necessary structural work on it. She did not understand why this was not considered a worthy reason to consider moving homes.

Sosich, who is on an invalid’s benefit, has paid for some minor alterations already and estimates she will have to find up to $10,000 to pay for all the other necessary modifications.

She has set up an online fundraising page and has organised raffles and bake sales to help raise the money.

Ministry of Health group manager disability support services Toni Atkinson said generally applicants did not qualify for another round of funding for housing modifications unless the person’s disability-related needs had changed or a young adult was moving out of home for the first time.

“Repeat funding is not considered, for example, if the person has moved from a home that has been modified to meet their needs due to personal preference or for social reasons or to a home that is not suitable to meet their disability-related needs.”

Should the disabled be able to move and have the taxpayer pick up necessary modifications every time, or should there be some limit to this?

If Jennifer just wanted to live somewhere else, why should that cost us money?

Once we have Jennifer in a place that is modified for her, does that mean that’s her home until the end unless she can self-fund modifications for any subsequent moves?



– Hannah Lee, Stuff

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