Monday 19 March 2018

Soldier facing overseas posting is 'worried sick' for wife and their four children left homeless

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Cillian Sherlock

A soldier, his wife, and their four children are currently homeless as they struggle to make ends meet - despite his 17 years with the Defence Forces and her part-time job.

The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, have four children aged 11 and under, one of whom has a rare genetic disorder, which results in a range of physical problems.

"I'm heartbroken and trying to wear a brave face every day but deep down I'm worried sick," the Defence Forces corporal said.

"I work damn hard and my family doesn't deserve to be homeless. I don't know what to do or where to turn."

He is due to travel abroad on a mission with a UN peacekeeping force in the near future.

The family's plight was highlighted by the Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces (WPDF) group.

WPDF has previously protested about pay and conditions in the Defence Forces, saying the families of many lower-paid members are so financially stretched that they depend on social welfare.

In this case, the soldier's partner, who works part-time in a shop in Kildare, described their situation as "heartbreaking".

She told the Irish Independent: "A full-time working soldier and a woman working part-time in a shop and we're on HAP (Housing Assistance Payment).

"We're working people. I'd work more hours but the childcare is way too expensive."

She said the pay in the Defence Forces was "dreadful" and that her husband had been subject to pay cuts.

Since cuts in 2009, basic pay for a private in the Defence Forces starts at €352 a week and rises after eight years' service to a total package of €670 a week.

"That's the reason we are here. That's why we qualify for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)," the woman said.

This family can now pay €1,200 per month for rented accommodation but some landlords and estate agents have deemed the family unsuitable due to the HAP scheme.

Their eldest daughter, who is 11, has a rare genetic disorder, Apert Syndrome, which leads to heart, breathing, gastrointestinal and urinary system problems, as well as learning difficulties.

"She has had over 50 surgeries," her mother explained. "That is why we need a particular sort of house as dust and mould affects her breathing.

"My partner has had to personally resuscitate her a number of times."

The family, from Co Kildare, were recently told by their landlord that he was selling the house.

Their other children are eight, six and four years old.

The couple have since found it impossible to find an alternative home in the areas of Newbridge and the Curragh.

The WPDF said the family needed to stay in the region as the children's schools and their GP are all in the Curragh.

It has called for the family to be housed or given a council mortgage immediately.

Irish Independent

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