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Terminally ill man living in caravan due to home shortage 

Drew McCartney, 67, has MND and felt his home was no longer suitable due to his illness.

A terminally ill man has spent the last nine months living in a caravan due to a lack of accessible social housing.

Drew McCartney, 67, from Cumnock was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in October 2017.

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles.

It can cause sufferers to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided.

Drew said: "It was a devastating blow, and it's taken a long time to come to terms with my diagnosis.

"I've tried to focus on living the best quality of life I can, but after six months it became clear to us that we couldn't go on living in our two-storey terraced house"

He has limited mobility in his legs and poor balance, making navigating stairs hazardous. Drew also struggles with fatigue, a lack of energy and experiences cold feet where he has lost movement.

Drew is not eligible for the Motability Scheme, which enables disabled people to exchange their mobility allowance to lease a new car or scooter.

It has meant he and wife Helen have had to use all of their savings to buy a mobility scooter as well as an automatic car and a hand-control adaptation to their car to support him.

Drew decided the house was no longer safe for him in March as his health deteriorated.

Drew moved into the caravan as he felt his home was no longer safe.
Drew moved into the caravan as he felt his home was no longer safe. STV

"We began the process of applying for accessible houses in the area, but we haven't gotten anywhere due to a chronic lack of social housing," Drew explained.

"During my time in the house I had to start sleeping on an inflatable mattress on the living room floor because I couldn't get upstairs to the bedroom or bathroom.

"If I wanted to leave the house, I had to be carried because there are stairs down to my garden as well."

The family home has been on the market for six months and until they can sell, Drew and his family are completely reliant on being prioritised for social housing to move into an accessible home.

In March, Drew decided that he had no choice but to move out of his home and into the family's holiday caravan in Castle Douglas, which has no running water and requires barrels of water to be filled.

This has now turned into a permanent residence for Drew.

Drew said: "The caravan isn't ideal, but at least everything is on the level, which allows me to keep some of my independence.

"My family isn't happy that Helen and I are down here because they want to help care for me, but at this stage I'm afraid that if I go back home, I'll become trapped downstairs and I'll never leave that house again.

"I realise that there are a lot of disabled people in the same position as me, but I know that my condition is only going to get worse and I don't know what else I can do."

'The availability and turnover of suitable accommodation; based on the couples' preferences, make it difficult to predict when they will be successful in their application.'
Robert McCulloch, East Ayrshire Council

East Ayrshire Council told STV News it was "committed" to finding Drew and his wife a new home, but that there are few suitable properties for them in their chosen area.

Robert McCulloch, acting head of Housing and Communities at East Ayrshire Council, said: "Mr and Mrs McCartney applied for housing with the Council in May 2018 and are requesting bungalow type accommodation in the Cumnock area.

"The couple, who own their current home, have been assessed by our Occupational Therapist as requiring ground floor wheelchair accessible accommodation which has been or is suitable for adaptation.

"In recognising Mr McCartney's condition, the couple have been awarded the maximum number of health and disability points.

"The council are committed to helping Mr and Mrs McCartney obtain suitable housing and the couple are reasonably well placed to receive an offer of housing, however, the availability and turnover of suitable accommodation; based on the couples' preferences, make it difficult to predict when they will be successful in their application."

Since applying to the council, three bungalows have been assessed but have not been suitable due to outdoor access which cannot be modified.

There are 97 bungalows within the couple's chosen area, however just two of these have been re-let within the past six months.

Susan Webster, MND Scotland's Head of Policy and Campaigns, said: "I'd like to thank Drew for his bravery in speaking out and highlighting the shortage of accessible homes.

"Someone like Drew should not have to live in a caravan, miles away from his home, family and care network, because he feels he has no other options.

"Our Advocacy worker has been supporting Drew and his family for many months, trying to secure an accessible home, but after little progress with Drew's case, and several others, it's very clear that there is an urgent need for many more accessible homes across Scotland.

"In addition, systems and processes must be put in place to ensure that those with terminal illnesses, like MND, are top of the list when accessible properties do become available and are fully supported to secure them without delay."

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