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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 26 May, 2020

'I'm at the end of my rope': Mother with severely disabled child desperately trying to find somewhere to live

Tracy McGinnis has said it is impossible to find a place to live with the Housing Assistance Payment.

Tracy and her son Brendan.
Tracy and her son Brendan.

A MOTHER WITH a severely disabled child has said that she is at the end of her rope as she cannot find a suitable place to live for her family on the Housing Assistance Payment.

Tracy McGinnis (51) lives with her two sons Declan (9) and Brendan Bjorn (12) in a partially unfinished house in north Kildare.

Brendan Bjorn was born with Congenital cytomegalovirus, a condition he contracted while still in the womb. He is severely disabled and as a result requires round the clock care.

Brendan can’t walk or talk, has severe epilepsy, cerebral palsy, osteoporosis and a range of other health issues. He requires specialist equipment for his needs.

His level of care is considered palliative, and he is not expected to live past 18.

As a result, Tracy put her career as a family therapist on hold in order to care for him full-time.

june-23 Brendan and Declan. Source: Tracy McGinnis

“He can’t sit up on his own, can’t hold anything, he can’t itch, he can’t roll over – he’s complete physically disabled,” she told

Tracy said that the house they are living in is highly unsuitable for Brendan.

His school is in Celbridge, which is about a 45 minute drive from where the family live.

“That’s just too long for him, he gets sick if we spend too long in the car,” said Tracy.

She said Brendan gets pressure sores – areas of damaged skin from staying in the one place for too long. As a result, travelling long distances in the car is very bad for him.

“It’s imperative that we move closer to Celbridge,” she said.

brendan-22-april-2 Brendan is fully immobile and requires round the clock care. Source: Tracy McGinnis

The family would also be closer to Tallaght as a result where Brendan’s paediatrician and specialist are located, and Crumlin where he has his orthopaedician.

As well as the distance, Tracy said that the private rental home in which her family are currently living is unsuitable for Brendan’s needs.

She moved in their with the boys just before Christmas as a result of relationship  breakdown, but said that the family needed to find a new home.

It’s just not fit… long-term.


Tracy said she was recently accepted on Kildare County Council’s housing waiting list, but was told that it could take up to 15 years or longer before her family can get a home.

She has been approved to receive the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in order to help her secure a home, but has found it impossible to find a place within the price limits.

HAP is a form of social housing support that is paid to private landlords by local councils on behalf of tenants.

Tracy said she is permitted to a limit of €1050 per month under HAP, but she said that the kind of home she needs for Brendan (a bungalow that is wheelchair accessible) is almost impossible to find.

The suitable homes she does find are generally in the region of €2000 per month or more.

Tracy said she has been to numerous viewings where there are crowds of people to see a home. She has also been told by landlords that they won’t accept HAP (which is illegal to do).

HAP has come under strong opposition criticism in recent times, with TDs saying it is not suitable to meet people’s long -term housing needs.

11249707_10205047103712959_8705629686830321986_n-2 Brendan and Declan. Source: Tracy McGinnis

“With the rental market as competitive as it is out there landlords can pick and choose and they’re thinking money,” she said.

“They’re going to choose a working couple who have a secure high paying income coming in as compared to someone who presents saying they have HAP.

“They don’t take the time listen to the fact that I am responsible person and I have a Master’s degree. I have had to take a career break for the last number of years so I can care for my son.

Especially as his condition has declined in the past couple of years. It’s not a sympathetic market, it’s a market based solely on money


Tracy said that she wants security for her and her two sons, but that she feels she has been let down by the State. On top of the housing issue, Brendan is on a waiting list for a spinal fusion operation Tracy said he needs as a matter of urgency.

bb-in-hospital-may-18 Brendan sleeping. Source: Tracy McGinnis

“In one corner I’m fighting to get a suitable safe secure long terms housing for us – in the other I’m fighting for the spinal fusion to happen sooner,” she said.

She is not sure if she will be able to remain in her current home for much longer, and does not know what will happen is she can’t find someplace to live.

She has appealed for help from her local representatives to help her find some means of securing a property that is suitable for her family.

Her nine-year-old son Declan has also been upset by the situation. Tracy also suffers from arthritis and lives with chronic pain every day. She battles with depression and is on antidepressants.

“I deal with anxiety issues and I deal with depression, I would love to be able to see a counsellor once in a while but I just can’t afford it,” she said.

I feel like I’m at the end of my rope.

You can read more about Tracy on her blog Transitioning Angels 

Read: ‘Everyone’s been saying to me don’t give it back… I kept saying it’s only a house at the end of the day’

Read: ‘I fought to get clean and to get where I am today’: New apartments in Dublin give hope to homeless people

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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