It was more than two years ago a Bolton family  were in need of a DIY SOS call to adapt their home for their 10-year-old who has cerebral palsy.

Now after a long and emotional journey, supported by local companies and people, the couple have finally moved into their home in Bromley Cross.

The family have spoken about the challenges and the support they received to transform their young boy's life.

Jasmine Jackson reports

Thomas Brown was born prematurely along with his twin sister Mia at 24 weeks and five days.

He has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, epilepsy, and cortical visual impairment.

The family’s ambition to adapt their home in Bromley Cross meant they had to move into a house next door which was not suitable for Thomas’ needs.

Now after two-and-a-half years the finishing touches have been made to the driveway, the final part of the project, the family, especially Thomas, can enjoy a better quality of life together.

Thomas’ dad Ian says he never wanted to be a site manager but had to take this on - and take each day as it came.

The Bolton News: Ian Brown with Thomas outside the front of their new homeIan Brown with Thomas outside the front of their new home (Image: Newsquest)How have their lives changed?

Thomas’ mum Jo says the adaptations have changed their lives as a family, especially in the mornings and evenings when it was difficult to get Thomas upstairs to bed or downstairs in the morning, and getting him ready for his bus to take him to school.

She said: “There’s no give on the time that the bus comes, you have to be ready by that time.

“It used to be a massive crunch point in our lives and really stressful getting him up and down the steps.

“It just used to feel like our lives were constantly full of stress, and even just taking that away from us, and the need to encourage him to go downstairs or upstairs carrying him, to get him in his wheelchair with dignity, is much less stressful.

“It’s changed our lives at home and allowed us to get out and about much more easily without that dread.”

There were times where the couple had got Thomas ready for school but then he had an accident – due to his complex toilet needs – and they would need to go back upstairs.

Ian added: “If I put my back out or twist my knee or do my hip, or the same thing happens to Jo then he loses a carer, so it’s not just Thomas it affects, we have to think about our lifting and handling because if we take a risk, we could end up not being able to care for him.

“Likewise my dad is 73 and can’t come round here and be lifting and carrying him, but we can feel more relaxed about that because we know that he can cope on this level playing field, without risking and injuring himself.

The Bolton News: Jo Brown with ThomasJo Brown with Thomas (Image: Newsquest)“And this means that our pool of people who can help has widened because it was getting really narrow.”

Jo says that Thomas and his siblings were all impacted by what was happening, where they all found it hard to go out financially and also so someone could be there for Thomas.

Jo added: “I know there are worse things happening in the world, and we have got through it, and we had to keep going.

“We always do, but it’s just took its toll on us.

“We were in a situation where there was no going back.”

What work has been completed?

The home adaption allows for level access when Thomas is using his wheelchair, alongside Thomas’ wheelchair ramp and parking space for his wheelchair accessible vehicle.

There are hoists in his bedroom and wet room and a stair lift.

Work is still to do in the back garden where Thomas’ outside therapy equipment will be with a wheelchair friendly path, a lawn, rendering of their extension and the garage, where Thomas' equipment such as his adapted trike and buggy is stored, and needs to come down and be rebuilt, as it floods, causing all of his equipment to collect water.

The new driveaway, which Ian says the late former councillor Norman Critchley helped him with,  means the family can go out more with Thomas, who is able to be more independent.

There was a point where the family did not know what would happen next after they had a flood, and the work was stalled due to the increasing costs, bills, and initial plans, described as “very complicated”.

The Bolton News: The new wet roomThe new wet room (Image: Newsquest)Ian said: “The design stage was so complicated, and it was never done.

“But we couldn’t continue looking after Thomas where we were living, and we had to move back because it was almost there in terms of living space.

“But the front was a disaster and we said we will move in and figure out what we will do there.

“We had a temporary ramp dug out so we could just about get him up and down through the mud, and we were at a loss.”

After being approached by an employee several months ago, AE Yates in Bolton wanted to see what they could do to help, as the firm often gives back to the local community.

Contract manager for the award-winning company Mick O’Hanlan said: “I came down and met Ian and his wife Jo, and we had a chat about things, and what the end result was that they needed to have a decent living lifestyle and also be assisted with the accessibility into the property.

“Together, collaboratively we came up with a system outside using the gabion baskets and some concrete ramps, and once we agreed on the methodology and a way forward, we delivered within three or four weeks.”

The Bolton News: Ian Brown and Mick O'HanlanIan Brown and Mick O'Hanlan (Image: Newsquest)Mick says that their supply chain in the Bolton and Greater Manchester area gave all their resources for free, meaning that AE Yates just provided labour resource, management, and engineering control, as well as some design.

Mick added: “It was fantastic to see all the local communities and local supply chains coming together to build £30k worth of work for free.

“Seeing it now after it’s been down for a couple of months, it looks great with some fancy features on there with some handrails on there.

“And Tom being able to come down in his wheelchair is fantastic.

“Our site manager, engineer Louis McDowall has a family member with cerebral palsy, so I think it hit his heart a little bit, and I think he really wanted to help.

“And I think what he delivered on site was fantastic.

“All the credit goes to not just me and the company, but the team that delivered the work and our supply chain.

“This project in particular pulled on the heartstrings when I had some difficult conversations with Ian earlier where Ian and the family have gone through some really difficult times.”

The Bolton News: The downstairs door has been a massive change for the familyThe downstairs door has been a massive change for the family (Image: Newsquest)Ian added: “That’s a critical part of it now because we just stopped going out because it was so difficult to leave the house.

“It’s made us more relaxed going out as a family and more adventurous.

“This has made our home welcoming.

“And being in the centre of the village, people have asked us why we didn’t move, but we have four kids, with one with disabilities, but we love living in the heart of our community and being visible.

“We didn’t want Thomas tucked away on a little estate somewhere.

“It’s good for the schools, the transport, our family, our work, the local restaurants.

“And we have managed to do this with the help of AE Yates creating the ramp outside, which was the big thing that needed to be done, and it’s been done to such a high standard.

“We are finding that we are getting regular visitors knocking on the door.”

How has life changed and how did they manage to complete everything?

Thomas’ mum said that Tom is now able to have his friends come round, including other wheelchair users.

Jo says that a lot of people in the community helped and been supportive by sending cards or giving up their time to help move equipment.

Ian says that throughout the process the family have had to raise a lot of money, but have never asked anyone to work for free, but they have had a lot of people offering to help.

He continued: “We put the money we raised into local trades people, and we never once quibbled about the rates, but if someone says we have seen your project, and they want to help out we won’t say no.

The Bolton News: During the completion of the driveDuring the completion of the drive (Image: Ian Brown)“We have made a lot of progress through a lot of donations and materials from local firms and businesses.”

To make this possible the family had to re-mortgage their house and also use their savings, as well as family members helping out too, and a fundraiser.

This was all still whilst they both worked as well.

Ian added: “These benevolent acts got us over the finish line.

“There was a point where we were like we’ve destroyed our house, and it’s never going to happen.

“Our only step was to move forward.

The Bolton News: From left to right: Jo, Ian, and Mick holding AE Yates award upFrom left to right: Jo, Ian, and Mick holding AE Yates award up (Image: Newsquest)“The fact that people gave up their time and came to help us out gave us an inner boost and it felt like someone put their arm around us and we felt loved, and like we weren’t on our own.”

Jo added: “Not knowing whether this house was even going to get started being out back together was just a nightmare that lasted and went on and on and on.

“I used to lie awake at night wondering what was going on here because at one point there was no front or back, the wind was whistling through, and it flooded.

“We were still feeling grateful that we had the security of the house next door to live in.”

The Bolton News: Before the driveway was completedBefore the driveway was completed (Image: Public)Throughout the process the charity Sulivan’s Heroes helped the family raise the funds and help with the publicity.

Ian said: “Without having the proper backing of a charity there’s no way we could have done it because they set up all the fundraising pages.”

During this period Ian’s mum Glynis Brown died, and Ian says that he feels “guilty” that because everything wasn’t completed on time, he wasn’t able to care for his mum.

AE Yates would like to thank the following supply chain and people involved:

Buckhurst Plant Hire

Armstrongs Aggregates Limited

Fox Brothers

Darren Francis

Patrick Walsh

Matt Hopwood

Civils and Lintels

Kevin Glackin and Nick Glackin helped finish the concrete

MCR Concrete

Nathan Wilde and Leigh Greenhalgh from AE Yates

If you have a story and something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at or DM me on Twitter @JournoJasmine.