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Disabled pensioner with no heating told by Islington Council helpline: You can’t jump the queue

PUBLISHED: 16:41 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:42 26 January 2018

Dianne Coles. Picture: Kamal Sultan

Dianne Coles. Picture: Kamal Sultan

Kamal Sultan

A disabled pensioner was left without heating for six days after an Islington Council helpline told her: “Everyone is vulnerable – it’s not like you can jump the queue.”

Dianne's radiator. Picture: Kamal SultanDianne's radiator. Picture: Kamal Sultan

Dianne Coles, who’s lived in her Islington flat for more than 20 years, noticed a “vile” smell coming from her boiler after she returned from her holiday on Saturday.

Her daughter Cheryl called Islington’s out-of-hours emergency repairs team and was told a gas engineer would be sent to Peregrine House, in Peregrine Hall Street, “as soon as possible”.

Cheryl had asked for some emergency heating for her mother to use in the meantime, only for the call handler to say her mother could not “jump the queue” of people waiting.

Despite Cheryl’s best efforts to explain that her mother is classed as vulnerable because of her age and arthritis, the call handler simply put her on hold and the call – a recording of which has been heard by the Gazette – was eventually disconnected.

Dianne said: “I was very cross; I left the room when I heard that.

“I just thought: ‘That is not a professional attitude – that’s not how you speak to people.’ It’s totally wrong.”

Peregrine House in Peregrine Hall Street. Picture: Kamal SultanPeregrine House in Peregrine Hall Street. Picture: Kamal Sultan

To add insult to injury, it had taken the mother and daughter four attempts to call the emergency repairs number – staffed by a contractor – in the first place. Dianne said she was frustrated that she couldn’t get in touch with the council directly.

Dianne added: “The council waste so much money it drives me insane. They are paying people who have never even heard of Islington.”

She eventually managed to speak to an engineer from maintenance firm Mitie on Monday morning, and the heating was fixed yesterday.

“I’ve been wearing lots of layers around the house,” she said, “and I’ve been using electric heaters, which worries me because as far as I am aware they cost an absolute fortune to run.”

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “We’re very concerned to hear about this, and are investigating further what happened.

“It’s very important to us that tenants are treated with respect and regard for their personal circumstances at all times.

“Repairs are a major priority for the council and we will continue to work with this tenant to make sure her boiler is fixed.”

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