INVESTIGATION: You can only be given a bungalow if you're old; This loving mother has spent 12 years caring for her severely disabled sons. In despair she begged the council for a bungalow. Their answer.
LONE mother Christina Murphy looks after her severely disabled twin boys around the clock.
But after years of struggling to live in a Wirral house barely suited to her sons' needs, Mrs Murphy is crying out for help.
Mrs Murphy's 12-year-old son Karl is a spastic quadriplegic, meaning he needs constant help to move, and cannot stand or crawl.
The youngster, already nine stone, has become too heavy to lift and requires hoists so his mother can bath him and put him to bed.
Christopher, Karl's twin brother, is a spastic hemiplegic with paralysis down the left hand side of his body and has similar mobility problems.
It requires military-like manoeuvres for the devoted 50-year-old to care for her boys, and the strain of lifting has left her registered disabled with arthritis in her spine.
In a scandalous cop out, Wirral council can claim it has no obligation to rehome the family as it handed responsibility for council houses to another authority, Wirral Partnership Homes.
And that organisation is also continuing to duck the issue, while Mrs Murphy struggles.
Five years ago Wirral social services agreed to make adaptations to the house in Cedar Avenue, Bebington, to cater for their specific needs. But Mrs Murphy claims the work was not done properly and actually caused more problems.
Despite repeated requests she says there have been no improvements.
Now with both boys growing fast she says what she really needs is a bungalow.
However, Mrs Murphy says when she asked housing officers at Wirral council for a bungalow she was told that they were provided only for the elderly.
The situation appears unchanged since responsibility for council houses was handed over to Wirral Partnership Homes. Mrs Murphy said: "I feel depressed about the situation I have been left in. I don't have any muscle man hidden in the cupboard.
"It is assumed that disabled kids are small, but mine aren't. They are big and demanding.
"I feel trapped. The needs of two severely disabled children and their mother are being ignored."
Mrs Murphy says a garage was converted into a bathroom in 2000 but because it was built with a low ceiling the hoists which lift Karl into the bath cannot work.
A changing table has never been provided so Christina has to change her children on an exercise mat on the bathroom floor.
Karl, who attends Foxfield special school, is now too big to fit into the bath and two carers, who help Mrs Murphy change and bath him, are finding it increasingly difficult.
Soon she fears she will have to start using the living room for all his needs because she cannot get up and down the stairs.
Mrs Murphy added: "If my twins were given up for adoption, it would cost pounds 3,000 per child, per week. I get paid pounds 42 invalid care allowance each week."
She has tried to get a mortgage on the benefits that she receives but says she would find it difficult to find a suitable property for pounds 80,000.
Wirral South Labour MP Ben Chapman today demanded answers from the council.
He said: "I am making inquiries to establish exactly what is going on and what extra help can be made available to her."
Eleanor Cooper, from voluntary organisation Wired, and is Mrs Murphy's carer advocate, said: "We are trying to rally round some support for her. The dignity of her children has been ignored."
Jeanette Johnson is a senior housing officer for voluntary chairtable organisation Wired, who help families with mobility issues.
She said: "There is a major shortage of housing in general for people with disabilities.
"We are made aware of properties available from Wirral Partnership Homes, but it seems there is nothing suitable at the moment
Feedback from the top
A SPOKESMAN for Wirral council said: "Five years ago, Mrs Murphy's house was extensively adapted with her garage converted into a bathroom with a level access shower and an extension so that a lift could be installed.
"We have met the family on a regular basis and will continue to do everything to ensure that she receives the help."
Brian Simpson, chief executive of Wirral Partnership Homes, said: "Over the past few years, pounds 25,000 has been invested in the property to adapt the home to suit the needs of Mrs Murphy and her family.
"Unfortunately, Wirral Partnership Homes has no family bungalows in the Bebington area.
"If the accommodation does not meet the family's needs, we advise her to contact the occupational therapist in social services to see if the property can be reassessed." With regard to Mrs Clarke, a spokesman for Wirral council said: "Mrs Clarke has a very extensive care package which is closely monitored by staff from Wirral social services and Wirral Hospital Trust.
"She has applied for a disabled facilities grant to enable her house to be adapted.
"Due to reasons beyond the council's control, there have been delays in the processing of Mrs Clarke's application for the grant
A day fraught with difficulties
7am: Mrs Murphy gets out of bed. She wakes the twins. Undresses Karl, massages his muscles, changes his nappy and strips the bed which is always wet
7.15am: Hoists Karl from his bed into his wheelchair and puts him in the lift to take him to the ground floor. Hand feeds him breakfast
7.30am: The same process begins for Chris, except he is able to walk down the stairs with his mother's help
7.30-9am: Feed and dress the twins to get them ready for school
9am: They are picked u p for school
9am: Puts the washing machine on which will be constantly working until the early evening. Karl gets through three sets of clothes every day11am: Go to one of the boys' schools to talk t o teachers. Sorts out wheelchair provision
1pm: Irons twins' clothes3.30pm: Twins come home from school. Throughout the evening, Mrs Murphy cannot leave Karl alone as he chews his clothes
5pm: Feed Karl his tea. Chris can feed himself
5.30-6pm: Mrs Murphy has her evening meal6-7pm: Helps Chris with his homework7pm-8pm: Mrs Murphy sits down for an hour for the first time during the day8pm-10pm: Bath routine. Two carers come to help bath the twins.
Without them, it takes three hours10-10.30pm: Sorts out the twins bedding. Strip and clean wheelchairs10.30pm: Mrs Murphy sits down for a 15 minute drink
11pm: Bed, although she is likely to be disturbed several times during the night
This isn't the first
SOCIAL Affairs reporter Catherine Jones says: "The British welfare system was set up t o help this country's people in their hour of need.
But you would never believe it after reading the heart-rending details of Christina Murphy's struggle with her two sons.
Mrs Murphy is not a chancer, a system player who is out to get more than her fair share of the pie.
She is a devoted mother trying to survive under extreme and desperate circumstances. All she asks for is help - help it is social services' legal and moral responsibility to provide.
Two years ago the ECHO featured a similar story in Wirral.
Two years on, seemingly nothing has changed.
Many people today will ask, what is the point of social services? And it is a fair question
TOUGH JOB: Christina Murphy cares for her twin boys Christopher, left, and Karl Picture: JASON ROBERTS
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|Publication:||Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Sep 8, 2005|
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