Elderly ‘ate Christmas dinner in their coats’ after estate’s heating went down

Chiara Giordano (11 January, 2018) Housing

Residents on the Setchell Estate, in Bermondsey, were left without heating or hot water over Christmas

20609Setchell Estate residents Iris Grey, Mark Howell, John McLachlan, Kevin Brown, Charlie Withers, and Roger and Christiana Macarthy-Woods

Elderly residents ate Christmas dinner in their coats after an estate was left without heating and hot water for almost a fortnight.

Trouble first began for residents at the Setchell Estate, in Bermondsey, when their heating and hot water went off just before Christmas Day.

One woman told the News her mother and father, aged 74 and 77, ate Christmas dinner in their coats and were going to bed at 5pm just to keep warm.

“My mum has fought breast cancer and my dad has COPD – they are both quite poorly and this has made them worse,” said the woman, who did not wish to be named.

“They can’t have a shower or a bath and have to boil a kettle and take it upstairs to have a wash.

“They had to go out and buy an electric heater for £90 which they haven’t got to spend and I gave them a couple [of heaters]. They are so, so depressed over this.”

Charlie Withers, who has lived on the estate with his wife Susan for ten years, said he got in touch with MP Neil Coyle, who “tried to take up the baton”.

“He is the one who actually gave us numbers to get in touch with people for heaters,” said the 69-year-old.

“Whenever we phoned up the council and asked how things were going and how far they had got with it, all we got was that they had noted it and it was continuing.

“It was really cold; we are on the corner so we get the wind coming from both ends.

“Most of the people on Curtis Way are pensioners and old people putting those heaters on, our electric bills are going to rocket.”

Christiana Macarthy-Woods, 85, who lives on the estate with her husband Roger, 79, said the couple were still without hot water and heating on Tuesday, January 9, as the News went to press.

A 56-year-old woman living in Peckham Park Road with her granddaughter said she was also left without heating or hot water for about 48 hours over the festive period.

Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle said the council needed to keep its list of vulnerable residents up to date, and also have a clear point of contact for localised issues.

“People were finding it difficult to get through to the council so contacted me,” he said.

“Not enough information is provided to people – even the people who contacted me said they knew I wasn’t responsible but asked if I could help.

“If you are an older person and you are on your own Christmas can be a really tough time of year – but to throw in the loss of heating and hot water is more than unfortunate which is why the council has to improve that list but also act quicker to contact people so they can know when it’s coming back on.”

Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “I do apologise to residents for the low heating over the past two weeks – this is due to a complicated underground leak, which was discovered underneath the foundations of the estate.

“We wrote to residents to ask if they required an emergency heater and have supplied them where required.

“We managed to locate the source of the problem on Thursday [January 4] and have ordered specialist repair materials to resolve it permanently.

“As this is a bespoke repair, it will take a little longer and we have written to residents again to explain the situation.

“I can reassure residents that all vulnerable tenants have been directly contacted and their wellbeing is monitored.

“All tenants will receive a refund of their service charges for the period of the outage and leaseholders, who pay actual costs incurred, will see a lower fuel cost for the period.

“We will be offering a small good will gesture on top of this for the inconvenience.”