To people struggling with the rocketing cost of keeping their home warm in winter, signing up to the government’s flagship Warm Front scheme seemed like sound sense.
The scheme offered a package of heating and insulation measures to make homes warmer and more energy efficient.
So when reader John Small, from Lee-on-the-Solent, received a brochure from Gosport Borough Council extolling the virtues of the scheme, he decided he wanted a slice of the action.
John jumped at the chance of having free cavity wall insulation and rang the council for information. They put him onto Warm Front who in turn appointed Worthing firm White Consolidation Ltd., an approved company whose contractors subsequently carried out the work in early 2009
The retired 83-year-old thought no more of it until last January when black mould began to show up on his internal walls.
A bodged installation job had caused rainwater to saturate the insulating material. It bridged the cavity, resulting in severe damp penetration.
When he rang the council for help and advice, to his horror he discovered the installer had gone bust in 2012.
The council advised him how to follow the official procedure to deal with his complaint. John then wrote to the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency to arrange for the insulating material to be removed.
They claimed his concerns would be investigated and resolved promptly, but that turned out to be more of an aspiration than reality.
A month later he received a letter from Carillion Energy Services which administered the scheme on behalf of the government. It promised to deal with his complaint and get it resolved within 28 days.
A Mr Martin came out to inspect the installation, but that was the last John heard from them.
Concerned he was getting nowhere, at the end of March he phoned Gosport council again to ask for their help. He was given Mr Martin’s phone number but quickly became brassed off after he tried to phone him at least half a dozen times without reply.
Fed up with being ignored, John contacted Streetwise to help him get the matter sorted.
We contacted Carillion’s head office and asked why all the delay. Carillion’s media relations manager Tony Henderson apologised profusely and told us he was on the case. A property inspection had been arranged and John would be informed of the outcome.
Just as John started to believe things were on the up and up, they were about to get a whole lot worse. Another letter arrived from Carillion asking him to give them a call. To his shock and bewilderment he was told there was no record of his claim or an inspection of his home.
Streetwise promptly got back to Mr Henderson and politely asked whether the left hand knew what the right was doing. We received an assurance it was just an administrative error and the inspection report had been forwarded to CIGA.
Yet another month rolled by and still John still had no news. This time we called the Guarantee Agency and insisted on the state of play.
It confirmed it had received a copy of the inspection outcome and had arranged for a contractor to extract the insulation. Another week later the job was finally done.
John was just grateful and relieved that, six months after first reporting his cavity wall insulation disaster, it was finally all done and dusted. But he believed his experience showed some aspects of government-backed energy saving schemes were not all they were cracked up to be.