Disabled woman is left without heat for weeks
A severely disabled east Belfast woman has been without proper heating in her home for two weeks, and is having to spend over £10 a day trying to keep warm with two electric heaters.
A local churchman also has concerns about how the woman has been treated by the Housing Executive which disconnected her heating weeks before her new system was due to be installed.
The Housing Executive has apologised for the distress caused and says it is anxious to get the work done as soon as possible.
Jacqueline French, who lives near the Belmont Road, suffers from progressive muscular dystrophy. She told the Community Telegraph: “They turned the heating off on the 12th and I was told I’m not getting it put back on until the 23rd.
“Just coming up to Christmas a man came up and said they were taking the gas fires out.
“I asked could they not wait until after Christmas — I’m disabled, and it would have been too stressful for me.
“They said they would be coming out to turn the gas off in January, and that was organised by the Housing Executive.
“The thing is I’ve been sleeping in the chair in the living room for the last seven years, because I’m scared that if I go to bed and lie down I won’t be able to get up again without the help of a carer.
“The heating has gone off — they said there could be carbon monoxide poisoning if it was left on.
“There’s no hot water except in the shower, and it’s costing me about £13 a day to heat the kitchen and living room.”
Ms French is fearful about actually vacating her home so that the work can be done.
She said she was concerned the works could take more than a day and that would leave her without somewhere to sleep for the night.
Her friend, and pastoral carer, Reverend Colin Hall Thompson said: “I’m concerned she should be left without heating for so long, and would ask why the heating needed to be turned off so long before any works start.
“Let’s hope it’s for good in the end, but I can’t see why the gas had to be turned off on the 12th — and I want to know who’s going to pay the bill for the heating while it’s been turned off.”
A Housing Executive spokesperson said: “The current heating system needs to be upgraded to allow the Housing Executive to complete much needed disability adaptations to the property.
“We anticipate that the works to the heating system will be completed in one day. Our contractor had initially planned to commence the proposed improvement works in mid December. However, at the request of the tenant the work was delayed until after Christmas.”
They claimed the contractor had twice called to the tenant’s home to commence the works since January 16. “However, the work can only be completed with the co-operation of the tenant who has so far refused to allow the work to start.
“Unfortunately, due to health and safety considerations the contractor had no option but to disconnect the current system to meet current gas safe regulations.
“An alternative heating source was provided at that time. However the contractor is liaising closely with the tenant and her representatives to make appropriate arrangements to allow the works to commence.”
The spokesperson added: “We regret any distress caused and are working hard to complete the works with the minimum inconvenience to the tenant.”