‘Rent supplement refusal is pushing us to the financial brink’

A Drogheda couple, who moved to Longford last year after falling victim to a ‘terrifying’ hammer attack, have claimed they are struggling to make ends meet after failed attempts to secure rent allowance from local housing officials.

A Drogheda couple, who moved to Longford last year after falling victim to a ‘terrifying’ hammer attack, have claimed they are struggling to make ends meet after failed attempts to secure rent allowance from local housing officials.

Husband and wife Noel Maguire and Marie Kelly left their home in Drogheda following what a judge described as an “extremely cowardly and vicious attack” on the couple on August 22, 2010.

The middle aged couple were attacked as they returned home from a night out.

Both were struck repeatedly by the 52-year-old former Defence Forces member and were hospitalised as a result.

Despite seeing their assailant sentenced to three years in prison, Noel and Marie opted to move to Longford last year in an effort to put their ordeal behind them.

Now the couple, both of whom are unemployed and receive a combined €310 a week in social welfare, have hit out at local authority chiefs for so far turning down their attempts to obtain rent supplement support.

Under its terms, maintenance is provided to those living in private rented accommodation who cannot provide for the cost of their accommodation from their own resources.

“We lost all our money over what happened,” Marie told the Leader recently. “I am on disability benefit and my husband Noel has a heart condition.”

Documentation seen by the Leader in recent weeks would appear to back up those claims. Correspondence outlining a psyciatric appointment Marie had in July as well as several letters sent by local TD James Bannon summarising the couple’s case are also mentioned.

In one acknowledgement sent to the couple in June, Mr Bannon pledged to pursue their case, stressing the view that Marie and Noel “did not voluntarily” leave their former home, but had little choice in the matter.

“I have asked Mr (Terry) Rooney (Senior Executive Officer) to re-investigate the case on your behalf, and have forwarded Marie’s medical report to him again, in the hope that they might review their decision,” said the Legan TD.

That request was denied three months later when, in September, Longford Town Council replied, stating: “These clients have been assessed and deemed ineligible for social housing.”

With their hopes of obtaining housing support now seemingly lying in tatters, Marie said she has been forced to turn to the likes of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) for help.

“We get €310 a week between us and €95 of that is spent on private rent. It has got that bad that I had to ring them (SVP) because I hadn’t the money to put oil in the tank. We can’t heat the house it’s that bad and you can’t even dress yourself. At the end of the week we have no money left after buying the food and everything else is bought.”

And with Christmas just weeks away, Marie admitted it’s a prospect both she and Noel are awaiting with ever growing trepidation.

“It’s very worrying,” she said. “They (council) won’t even put us down for a house. We don’t know what to do. After all that has happened us, have they no compassion at all?”

In response, Longford County Council said they had found no trace of the Marie and Noel’s case file this week. In any event, a spokesperson said it was not council policy to publicly respond to individual incidences.

“A general comment is that rent supplement is payable by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) rather than the County Council,” they said via a statement.

“The DSP normally require a letter from the Council confirming that the applicant for rent supplement has a housing need.

“Housing need is determined by the Council on the basis of a standard application and assessment procedure.”