Saturday, 12 December 2015


Carol Matthews
and an
put to shame

The Cumbria flooding disaster is dwarfing everything in its scale of suffering. Perhaps you could argue that the swamping ordeal of the flood victims can be compared with other suffering in the area, such as Riverside Housing Association tenants a few miles away with little or no heat in their homes.
Or you could argue that the tenants` suffering is  only on a minor scale. But  that these people  are really suffering, there is no doubt. It is  the tenants` fifth winter  facing £4,000 energy bills they cannot afford.

This situation at Longtown is shameful for  the Liverpool- based Riverside and its chief executive, Carol Matthews. Shameful  about that organisation`s uncaring  attitude to its tenants and shameful too about the dodgy Riverside boilers in 60 Longtown homes and elsewhere that have caused the  sky-high  energy bills.

Boilers in tenants` homes do not have to be the cause of shame. Boilers in tenants` homes can also be a  cause of great pride. They don`t have to  bring suffering, they can also bring benefits, big benefits.

Image result for Dawn Foster Guardian  picture
Guardian writer Dawn Foster
Boilers with big benefits are today`s big talking point among the Longtown tenants as news of these boilers  has emerged in  an article by Dawn Foster in the Guardian newspaper. Boilers with big benefits are big news and  a source of pride for  the housing association that has developed them.

That  association is Gentoo which is based at Sunderland, sixty miles from Longtown.It owns 30,000 properties.

This is what Dawn Foster`s article says:

"Picture the scene: you come down with flu, and take to bed. Your house is both cold and damp, so you develop complications and have to stay in hospital. Once your strength is up, and you’ve been treated, you return home. Your house is still cold, still damp. The conditions aren’t helpful  to your already precarious health, so you return, wearily, to your doctor.
Image result for gentoo housing association boilers pictures
One of the people to benefit from the Boiler on Prescription pilot scheme was 77 year old Herbie Harris, pictured here with his wife June, 75. The former electrician lives in Sunderland. He suffers from a serious respiratory condition.

"This catch-22  situation affects thousands of households in Britain. Much of the housing stock  is poorly insulated, and not especially well maintained. Heating your home becomes expensive, and the entire building is energy inefficient.

"Poorly insulated homes and fuel poverty affect health to a huge degree, and cost the NHS huge sums. It is difficult to make the case for preventative work on homes  if  the NHS alone has to foot the bill.

"To try to test out joined-up care, housing association Gentoo launched a pilot scheme with the NHS in Sunderland, targeting households in fuel-inefficient homes with at least one tenant with a respiratory problem likely to be worsened by cold and damp.

"The households were given a “boiler on prescription” – they were directly prescribed a new boiler and insulation work, including double-glazing, to see if the home improvements translated to health improvements."

Dawn Foster`s article says that results of a boiler on prescription were stark. In the first six months alone, GP appointments had been reduced by 28% and outpatient appointments by 33%. Tenants’ energy bills were reduced by a third on average and the scheme has saved the NHS many thousands of pounds.
Gentoo have fewer worries about rent arrears in these homes because their tenants are healthier and the housing stock is healthier too, because it is no longer plagued by damp.

Dawn Foster`s article says that the scheme  has attracted  much attention from doctors throughout the country. One of them is Dr Tim Ballard, vice chairman of the Royal College of GPs who  says this:

“We know that health inequalities affect health and being cold does this more so than many other things.  It is difficult for the healthcare system to positively influence these areas but the Gentoo Boiler on Prescription project needs to be seen as a wake-up call.

“This scheme is good for people, good for the NHS, and to top it all good for the environment that we all depend upon. The big challenge for us all now is to replicate this across the whole of the UK.”

Longtown tenants reading this challenge from the Royal College of GPs find it an impossible dream to believe that  a Gentoo Boiler on Prescription Scheme would ever  reach  Longtown and replace their Riverside  Dodgy Boiler Scheme.

Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation which  for years has been leading the fight  against the uncaring Riverside organisation agrees with this and has this comment:

“Ms Matthews says she is aiming to  `articulate a new vision for housing associations ` while at the same time she works in accordance with Riverside`s  Mission Statement which says that the organisation is `transforming lives and revitalising neighbourhoods`,

“These are  meaningless hollow words from a meaningless hollow organisation.

"Shameful words. Shameful organisation".

CarlisleTenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803.

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