Senior Citizens are left without working boilers for up to 5 days

By Mary Dennehy

SENIOR citizens were among hundreds of council tenants left without working boilers for up to four or five days in the early weeks of 2021 – and during the cold snap.

According to figures released, South Dublin County Council received 911 maintenance or repair requests in relation to central heating systems in the six weeks between January 4 and February 14.

Houses aerial

Aerial view of Tallaght

Almost half of these requests (494) were from the Tallaght electoral area.

According to the council, the overall figure of 911 represents a 16 per cent increase in repair requests when compared with the same period last year.

Responding to a question by Tallaght Central councillor Mick Duff, council management said: “Demand for maintenance does correlate with the prevailing weather conditions.

“Due to the level of fluctuation in demand this will impact on response times.

“It should also be noted compared to the same period in 2020, the council has seen an increase of 16 per cent in requests for repairs to central heating systems.

“[This increase] is being attributed to the increase of daily demand on central heating systems as tenants spend more time at home following government advice relating to Covid restrictions.”

Cllr Duff told The Echo that while there was “marginal merit” in the council’s conclusion that heating systems are being used more, he does not believe this applies to all tenants, especially older residents - many of whom are at home during the day regardless of lockdown.

While acknowledging that the council responded to requests as quickly as possibly, alongside offering electric heaters to tenants, Cllr Duff is of the opinion that a regular programme of maintenance needs to be introduced.

“I raised the issue specifically with the council due to the number of senior citizens left without heat”, Cllr Duff told The Echo.

“The majority of issues seemed to be down to systems dropping pressure.

“I received calls from right across the general Tallaght area.

“People had no heating… as we went through an appalling spell of cold weather.

“A lot of people are also dependent on their boiler for hot water.

“When I spoke with council officers they did respond as best they possibly could, but the mean average [for maintenance work] was between four and five days.”

Cllr Duff believes that a system needs to be put in place to ensure every boiler is serviced and that older boilers are replaced.

“We don’t want anybody left in this situation in the future”, Cllr Duff said.

“I am calling on the council to survey homes to identify if boilers need service or upgrade.

“Boilers need regular service across the board, especially for senior citizens.

“We have a tree maintenance programme, a road maintenance programme, footpath maintenance…surely we should have a heating system maintenance programme.

“It could be carried out on a phased basis.”

According to the council’s maintenance policy, faults to central heating systems are “deemed urgent” and repairs will be carried out within 10 working days.

However, typically, contractors will inspect properties and resolve issues within three to five days – with older/vulnerable people “prioritised where possible”.

“Whilst every effort is being made by the council and its contractors, on occasions, depending on the nature of the fault and availability of parts, repairs can take longer than expected”, the council said.

“In the event heating systems are not operational for prolonged periods, the Housing Maintenance Section provide portable storage heaters subject to availability and specific need.”

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