Elderly residents of a sheltered housing scheme were left without heating overnight after a council cock-up left them waiting hours for a repair.
The council has a target of four hours for emergency repairs to sheltered housing, but when a communal boiler broke at the council-owned Lindfield Court, on The Crestway, Hollingdean, residents were told that the emergency call out time was 24 hours.
One 87-year-old woman, Helen Smith, was “rescued” from her flat by her daughter after the temperature in her flat plummeted to 10 degrees.
Lindfield Court residents were left cold from 9.30pm on Saturday, 4 March until 3pm on Sunday, 5 March when the boiler was fixed and heating was restored – 17.5 hours in total. Temperatures that night reached 3 degrees Celsius locally.
Helen’s daughter Andrea Graham says the council should at least staff assisted living homes with housing scheme managers at the weekend.
Ms Graham said: “They were left overnight, with no heating in those temperatures and no one went to check.
“They’ve all got health impairments, or support needs; some of them are in their nineties.
“The impact of being cold like that, for that length of time, it really could end up in hospitalizations.”
She said that even when she phoned to check on Monday morning, after the boiler was repaired, the supporting housing manager again wrongly told her the target was 24 hours.
She said: “What should happen in a situation such as that? You’d go from CareLink to the repair team but there should be someone on call that can go in and just check that those residents are okay.
“The fact that there is no one on call to go in and check on those residents is a disaster.”
A new handbook for council tenants stating a 24 hour policy for emergency repairs was published in November 2022, but the council says the call out time for sheltered housing schemes remains four hours.
A council spokesperson said: “Our call out time for sheltered housing schemes is four hours. It has not changed to 24 hours.
“Unfortunately in this instance there was an administrative error that placed the job into a longer time frame.
“We sincerely apologise for this error, and we have taken steps to ensure it won’t happen again.
“Lindfield Court is a seniors housing scheme where we provide a scheme manager service from Monday to Friday.
“At all other times, and when the scheme manager is off site, there is an alarm system in each flat and in the communal areas with 24-hour cover provided by CareLink Plus.
“This enables residents to speak to someone in an emergency at all times, including weekends.
“CareLink Plus escalate issues out of hours to our duty housing manager among others if needed.
“There are also notice boards containing contact details for the repairs and maintenance helpdesk. This also has a 24-hour contact service.”
A new in-house repairs, maintenance and improvement service for council tenants and leaseholders started on 1 April 2020 following the end of a contract with Mears.