Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

If only the council's compassion had flooded in for Phyllis

If ever there is a story that illustrates the nit-picking petty-minded pedantry of officialdom, it has to be the case of 89-year-old Cregagh woman Phyllis Todd, turned down for the emergency funding available to those whose homes were recently flooded.

This despite the fact that Phyllis's home was recently flooded.

Where Phyllis went wrong with her flood water was that it didn't ingress (Castlereagh Council word) from the ground up. It ingressed from the roof, down along pipes, down the stairs. And in the windows and through the doors.

It was so bad, a member of her family reports, that the bathroom ceiling collapsed (and Phyllis was lucky to escape being hit by it).

Throughout the house, floors have been destroyed and will need to be ripped up and replaced. Carpets, needless to say, are beyond salvage. Walls will need to be redecorated, that bathroom ceiling made good and the bathroom itself repaired.

Then the house roof will need to be looked at ... obviously there's a problem there. And this is only the structural damage.

Each of us can all too easily imagine how that poor woman's personal belongings, treasured photographs and mementoes may also have been destroyed or damaged by the deluge.

It's why people have such sympathy for flooding victims. It's not just the destruction they are left with but the loss of often irreplaceable items that are worth little in financial terms but are beyond priceless in real terms.

And among those things which Phyllis (and her family) may well have lost is peace of mind.

When you read this story the bit that truly stands out is that line about "89 years of age".

This dignified elderly lady has been getting along quite nicely on her own at an age when many require state care.

In such care she would cost the taxpayer many more thousands than the paltry £1,000 funding she has been denied by council edict.

And, yes of course, rules is rules. There have to be rules because, as we all know, in any given emergency, benefits queue or set of circumstances occasioning state hand-out there are always the leeches who dishonestly claim they fit the bill. Which explains the often spiralling bill.

Those leeches aren't swiping money off the broad back of the Government (which is how they like to see it.) They're taking it out of the hands of the truly needy and deserving.

That's why the line has to be drawn somewhere. And in the case of the recent floods you can see why the council would choose to draw the line at homes in areas which were flooded from the ground up.

A council spokeswoman says: "An ingress of water through a defective roof, windows or whatever does not make the criteria of the scheme which is extremely unfortunate and something we're sympathetic to."

She may not meet the criteria to the letter but the 89-year-old Phyllis Todd is very patently not some chancer hoping to cash in on money to which she is not entitled. She is an honourable woman who genuinely deserves a little help here.

Her family say they will rally round and sort the work that needs to be done but understandably they can't fathom any more than the rest of us why she can't be given that small amount of state aid that would make all the difference in her circumstances. Who knows?

By the time you read this, someone in officialdom may have stepped in to order a humane waiving of the rules.

But what shabby treatment of an elderly lady in the first place in a case where officialdom could - and should - have shown an ingress of common-sense and compassion.

From the ground up.

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