Belfast Telegraph

Cold comfort for disabled Bangor family

A Bangor family are facing a freezing winter and soaring heating bills because of ongoing problems with their Housing Executive home.

Ian and Isobelle Hamilton and their daughter Nikki suffer a number of serious disabilities and moved into a house, built to cater for their needs in 2007. However, far from having a happy ending, the family have found themselves enduring a tale of woe with one building disaster following another. "They've had to replace the bathroom floor three times and we're on our sixth shower," said Isobelle.

The pipes weren't properly connected to the sewerage system so at one point she got home to find raw sewage around the house.

Now the family are concerned that the Housing Executive is dragging its heels over improving insulation at theirs and a number of other houses in the area.

Isobelle, who is well known for championing other people's causes as chair of Bloomfield Community Association and local disability and housing groups, suffers from constant pain due to arthritis. It caused her knee to collapse and the operation to replace it failed, leaving her unable to walk unaided. Her worst moments came some years ago when daughter Nikki required brain surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital. In the immediate aftermath, her husband Ian required major surgery for cancer in his face.

Their suffering is compounded in the cold winter months. "My house is freezing," she explained. "I'm using £85-£90 of gas a week to try to heat it."

Her exasperation has mounted as no action followed a survey in the summer of a number of houses in the Bloomfield estate, Kilcooley and Jubilee which found they were under-insulated.

Isobelle raised the issue with a senior officer in the Housing Executive in September and was assured the problem would be remedied soon.

Her hopes were raised when a contractor from the Housing Executive arrived on Friday morning, November 22 – but instead of getting on with insulating her walls, he told her he was only there to carry out a survey and had no knowledge of the previous inspection.

"He said we'll have the report in two weeks but we'll be into December then. All I want is my house fixed properly."

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said it appreciated tenants would like to get the insulation replaced in their homes as soon as possible. "These properties were not however surveyed by the Housing Executive, but were part of a research project undertaken by SERC (South East Regional College). The survey did not provide the necessary level of detail. We need to carry out our own survey work to find out the condition of the insulation and determine what work is required.

"We have started this process and appointed a consultant, with the necessary surveys being carried out as quickly as possible. The majority were completed last Friday. Our consultants will, based on their findings, provide recommendations for remedial work," they said, adding that they hoped to begin work in the new year.

Green party councillor John Barry said it was "disgraceful" that the Hamilton family would spend another winter in a poorly insulated house, despite a commitment that that would not happen.

He said 20 homes had been surveyed by the National Insulation Association and John Ross from SERC and that every one had "serious flaws" with its cavity wall insulation with some also lacking proper loft insulation.

He added: "While I understand there is a commitment by the Housing Executive to ensure the insulation work is done in 2014, this is an issue that should have been prioritised and sorted much quicker than this."

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