Anger and fury as children go cold, the elderly go cold and mould a major issue among social housing tenants across Fenland
PUBLISHED: 12:51 21 November 2017
A growing chorus of complaints of people left without heating, children living in damp and squalid conditions and numerous complaints of lingering mould has prompted urgent action by Fenland’s biggest provider of social housing.
Roddons Circle Housing – now part of Clarion – has been forced to act following a barrage of complaints by residents and councillors.
It has even led to a Facebook group being set up especially to collate complaints.
And the housing association – that took over responsibility for Fenland’s 4,000 former council houses 10 years ago- is facing the threat of children’s services intervening in cases where illness and poor health is arising not carrying out repairs.
Wisbech councillor Virginia Bucknor said: “The complaints this past weekend include a resident with a baby and three-year-old being moved into a property where they had only just cleaned the mould the previous day and the boiler was not working”.
She said had also received two complaints of tenants being without heating and hot water for weeks awaiting parts.
“The mother and children were re-housed in a hotel on Sunday night and the Circle team are efficiently dealing with the problem now but this should of course not have arisen in the first place.”
Clarion says it has doubled its contracted workforce to carry out repairs after admitting “a less than satisfactory service with homes being left without heating or hot water for extended periods of time”.
The housing association says there will now be 12 operatives working to cope with a backlog of complaints about heating and gas.
Sue Stavers, head of housing services for Clarion, said there have been “an increasing number of complaints over the last six weeks concerning gas heating and hot water”.
The influx of calls has “in turn had an impact on other residents trying to make contact with us”.
She said Clarion’s head of mechanical and electrical services has been working with Morgan Sindall – which started the new gas contract in the East region at the beginning of October this year - to address “performance issues and is in the process of finalising a service recovery plan”.
She said that a meeting was held to “reinforce what we expect from this contract and to obtain absolute assurance that Morgan Sindall will take all necessary actions to move performance in the right direction.”
Morgan Sindall has since said they will double the number of gas trained operatives completing both servicing and repair visits from six staff to 12.
There will be a further increase to 14 or 15 when suitable temporary staff can be employed.
“This will make a huge difference to their ability to take calls, book appointments and to respond to resident queries,” said Mrs Stavers.
As a short-term fix, the contractor has agreed to use a sub-contractor to increase the number of available operatives.
“The number of operatives has already increased from 17 to 28 and this will increase to more than 30 during the next few weeks so that Morgan Sindall will be better resourced to respond to emergencies as they arise.”
Mrs Stavers cites a number of IT issues which has impacted on Morgan Sindall’s “ability to schedule appointments and provide appropriate documentation”.
She adds that, as Morgan Sindall does not have the resources “to carry out reactive replacements of boilers at this time, it has been agreed that this work will be placed with an alternative contractor until January 2018. This will allow Morgan Sindall to focus their resources on compliance, repairs and void property safety visits.
“It has also been agreed that Morgan Sindall will increase the scrutiny on non-compliant properties, including more calls and contact attempts with customers.
“They have also been encouraged to increase out of hours calls especially for longer overdue properties. We expect that this will have a positive impact on compliance over the coming weeks.
“I apologise for the impact that this service failure has had upon your own teams and thank you for bearing with us at what is a very difficult time for our collective customers, as well as our staff.”
If you are having trouble with Roddons call the Clarion contact centre on 0300 500800 or log a complaint online at www.circle.org.uk
Cllr Bucknor said: “People and their children with serious health issues and the elderly returning from hospital with no heating for weeks is totally unacceptable.”