Tuesday, December 30, 2014

City Council council housing lighting repair concerns

I have expressed concern about the unacceptable speed of responses to council housing lighting failure repairs in the run up to Christmas, particularly as the cases involved older tenants the West End.

I have asked the City Council’s Housing Department for an explanation as to why it took from 16th December until 27th December to repair a strip light in an elderly tenant’s kitchen in sheltered housing in the Logie Estate.    

The repair finally happened on Saturday after I contacted the Director of Housing herself.    I am very grateful for the Director’s intervention but the fact that, for days, this elderly tenant’s carers were having to try to prepare her meals in the dark in her kitchen is wholly unacceptable.     I therefore asked for more information about service standards and if these are being achieved.

In another case, where lighting has failed in the back area of a tenement block with mainly older residents in the Abbotsford area, a repair request reported on 12th December was given a target date for repair of 31st December.   The tenement back area and route to the bin store has been in pitch darkness at night.    I have concerns there were simply too few electricians on duty to effect repairs in a reasonable timescale.

I think it is important that such lighting repairs timescales are swiftly improved, particularly where elderly tenants were affected.

The City Council's Housing Strategy Manager responded to me yesterday as follows :

"Where all lights in the communal close are out, this will be dealt with as an emergency (24 hours). 

Otherwise it will be logged as a Quick Fix Repair (5 working days). Staff taking repair requests do not have the authority to change repair priorities, however, when dealing with an elderly/vulnerable tenant (including tenants in sheltered housing) they are encouraged to use their initiative/discretion and they should discuss with the trade supervisors the possibility of having the repair carried out more quickly. 

Communal lighting – this is classed as a Routine Repair (15 working days). However, as above, staff are encouraged to use their initiative/discretion when dealing with an elderly/vulnerable tenant and, where necessary, they should discuss with the trade supervisors the possibility of having the repair carried out more quickly.

If all lights are out in a house this would be regarded as an emergency (24 hours). Otherwise it would be logged as a Quick Fix (5 working days). However, as above, staff are encouraged to use their initiative/discretion when dealing with an elderly/vulnerable tenant."

I have responded :

"What’s not clear from this is whether or not targeted repair timescales are actually being met?    

When my office contacted the department again on 23rd December about Abbotsford Place they were advised (to quote) “the electricians … unfortunately they are too busy and there is only 2 of them.”    In the case of [the tenant in question in Logie], the tenant is clearly elderly and infirm but it took from 16th to 27th December for the kitchen strip light to be repaired during which time the tenant’s carers had to prepare meals in the dark.

You indicate “staff are encouraged to use their initiative/discretion when dealing with an elderly/vulnerable tenant” but this either did not happen in this case or – as I suspect – there was simply no resource available to do the job earlier.

The bottom line is that the speed of response has been unacceptable in these cases and I would ask if you can confirm if you monitor if targets are actually being met, if all staff are actually aware they have discretion to insist on an earlier repair where the tenant is vulnerable [and what actually happens in terms of escalation at (the Environment Department repairs service) if such insistence is made by Housing staff] and if staff resource in the period leading up to Christmas has been sufficient to achieve targets?"