At the start of September I was contacted by a resident concerned for her elderly neighbour. She told me that her 84 year-old friend had a broken shower, yet despite asking the Council for help little was forthcoming.
I tried to help. I received a guarantee that the shower would be fixed as soon as possible. It wasn’t, it still isn’t, and I’m livid.
Here’s a timeline of what happened:
- Mid-August: the resident contacted Croydon Council who sent out a plumber. The plumber advised that she would need a whole new shower which he would submit to the council for the works to be completed urgently.
- 4 September: a plumber attends and says that he was just there to assess what was needed to replace the shower, not to fix it himself. He confirmed that it would be fitted on the 2 October. At this date the elderly resident would have been without a shower for seven weeks.
- 4 September: I was first contacted by the concerned neighbour on this date and I urgently contacted the Council asking them to speed up the repairs.
- 9 September: The Council tells me that Axis (the repair company) have arranged an appointment for 14 September 2020, ‘and the repairs will be completed on this date.’
- 14 September: the engineer attends to complete the works for the shower but on his arrival said that that once again he would not be able to complete it as they did not have the parts. They rescheduled the repairs for 23 September. The elderly resident would have been without cleaning facilities for six weeks at this point.
She has no bath, so with some difficulty the resident is having to wash herself in her sink. I’m told she has health conditions that require her to wash on a daily basis to avoid infections and ending up in hospital. She even booked an appointment at the hairdressers just to be able to wash her hair properly. The shoddy way she has been treated is totally unacceptable.
A period of time to arrange the repairs is understandable. What is not understandable is the litany of broken promises, the endless delays and the sheer incompetence on display here - all of which is causing misery to an elderly resident. Axis, and the Council, have a lot to answer for.
I am pushing the Council to investigate and rectify this ASAP. But this is sadly yet another example of the incredibly poor service our Labour Council is giving to Croydon’s residents. The only way to fix it is to kick them out at the next election, and to vote Conservative in 2022.
UPDATE: 23RD SEPTEMBER 2020
After the publication of this blog, and entirely expectedly if truth me told, I received a flurry of tweets from supposedly concerned Labour councillors.
Cllr Alison Butler, the Labour Lead for Housing, tweeted on 17 September: Dear Mario. Thank you for raising concerns on behalf of your resident. If you would like to forward me the details, I will ensure it is investigated as a matter of urgency.
This I duly did. To date I have received no reply from Cllr Butler, not even an acknowledgement of my email.
On 19 September I re-contacted Council Officers, asking them if there was an update. Again, to date I have received no response.
Today, 23 September, I received the following distressing message from the neighbour of my 84-year-old resident:
'Please can you help me I have just had a very distressed NAME on the phone who has been waiting all morning for someone to arrive from the council to replace the shower and this was booked in for this morning and no one has turned up or bothered to contact her. This is now beginning to really upset NAME and is taking it toll on her health. I am absolutely disgusted at the incompetence and communication and the lack of concern for NAME’s wellbeing. Please could let me know once spoken to someone.'
My resident has been diligently following the proper Council process since mid-August. She has had multiple engineers go to her house, none of them with the capability to actually repair it. I have gone through multiple layers of Council bureaucracy including to the political lead - and still, no progress has been made. Today I've raised my concerns with senior Directors at the Council, hoping that I can make progress for my poor, maltreated resident.
It's understandable that there could be some minor delays or lag times for parts to arrive - but it's been nearly six weeks. To mess her around like this is simply unforgivable. She has not been unreasonably demanding. She just wants her shower fixed so she can clean herself. Is that too much to ask?
I have put out a call to local private plumbing contacts to see if they might be willing to donate a repair for this lady. One said they would be more than happy to help, for free, and that it could be installed by the weekend. I have told this to Council to see if this is a viable option to speed the repair.
UPDATE: 24TH SEPTEMBER 2020
The Council tells me that arranging a private repair is not permitted: ‘if it has been installed privately, unfortunately our repairs team do not maintain or carry out work in such circumstances. If this is the case we can look at other services who may be able to assist such as Age Uk or Adult Services within the council.’
Today I also received a tweet from Cllr Alison Butler saying that the cause for the delay was that the shower was not in stock, but that it has arrived and will be fitted tomorrow.
I have still not had a reply to my substantive emails through the Council's official channels. It really does seem that this Council Administration puts more stock in replying to PR-pressure on Twitter, and not in valid inquiries from residents and councillors through proper channels.
UPDATE: 25TH SEPTEMBER 2020
I'm delighted to say that after six weeks of waiting, at least four visits and dozens of emails - my elderly resident has finally had her shower replaced.
She no longer has to bathe in her sink.
She no longer has to book hairdresser appointments just to wash her hair properly.
She can manage her health conditions so she can avoid illness.
It shouldn't have taken this long and it shouldn't have taken so much effort to get a simple shower repaired.
During the installation, a few bathroom tiles were damaged but we have been promised that these will be repaired next week.
The important thing is that my resident has her working shower. Her neighbour told me: 'She sounded so much happier tonight that she can have a nice shower and asked me to pass on her thanks to you for getting the wheels in motion and speeding things up'.
It was my absolute pleasure, I'm only sorry our failing Labour Council took so long to do their job.
UPDATE: 7TH OCTOBER 2020
I have just received a message detailing the investigation that took place, and the checks put in to ensure this never happens again to another vulnerable resident:
'Further to the issues you raised on behalf of your constituent, I have now had feedback from the Divisional Manager at Axis who has taken this enquiry on personally on his return from leave. He advises me that he has done this due to the worrying nature of service failures in this case.
Axis have commissioned a full end to end review of the issue and have identified a number of key failures that they state are inexcusable in terms of following their own process as well as applying the necessary focus to cases involving vulnerable residents.
Of particular concern have been 3 instances where the process failed to understand the need, vulnerability and overall customer experience, all of these are to be considered as human error and not system lacking. These failures involved the planning team not taking into consideration the report back from the attending Operative who clearly identified the issues and circumstances of the resident. Further, the arranging of a second visit some two weeks later not considering the resident’s position and not evoking their escalation procedure for special cases such as these.
I am advised the Head of the planning team has addressed the individuals concerned, in line with their corporate polices. I am told that incidents such as these should not occur as all of their team are fully trained and conversant with the safeguarding policy and obligations. Axis are currently scoping a change in procedure to ensure that jobs of this nature do not fall in the daily regime of repairs and have the necessary focus applied.
Axis will be making contact with your resident to extend their most sincere apologies for the service received.
I would add my apologies and I hope this response assures you that this matter has been taken seriously and that there is an acceptance that on this occasion, the service fell far short of what should be expected.'