Home   News   Article

They're just not looking after us! - Sheltered housing residents in Thurso feel ignored by council


By David G Scott

Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our digital subscription packages!



Residents of a sheltered housing accommodation in Thurso pointed out various issues with their homes that they feel Highland Council has repeatedly failed to address.

Several elderly people in the retirement housing complex at Oldfield Court said they have complained about draughty doors and windows; lack of support from the warden and handyman; lack of maintenance in gardens; a cracked chimney stack in danger of collapsing; poorly laid roof insulation and broken fences left to rot in the street.

Jenny Jones lives in a supported housing complex in Thurso but feels there is 'a lack of support' for the residents. Pictures: DGS
Jenny Jones lives in a supported housing complex in Thurso but feels there is 'a lack of support' for the residents. Pictures: DGS

Jenny Jones (72) contacted the paper after feeling ignored by the local authority, which runs the complex, and said: "The warden is supposed to come if you need any help but now [due to Covid] they can't. What I don't understand is why she can't just stand outside the window? I could open the window and talk to her but they're not allowed to do it."

Jenny Jones said she feels ignored by Highland Council and contacted the paper to help address a series of problems with her house. Pictures: DGS
Jenny Jones said she feels ignored by Highland Council and contacted the paper to help address a series of problems with her house. Pictures: DGS

The disabled pensioner has a number of health issues and has lived at Oldfield Court for around four years. She said she has also lost large sums of money to confidence tricksters in the past. "I must be a soft person and care about people but they don't care about me obviously. A couple of friends were concerned about me after I lost the money and contacted social services."

Though she says she has come to terms with losing thousands of pounds, Mrs Jones now feels there is a lack of support from Highland Council with regard to general maintenance around the house and back garden. "There are draughts coming under the doors. In the bathroom, it's absolutely freezing when you come out the shower. When you sit on the sofa at night watching the telly you can feel a draft going around the floor – it's like being in a fridge."

Mrs Jones with her dog Poppet.
Mrs Jones with her dog Poppet.

She claims to have contacted the handyman service five times and "not once have they rung back". The residential warden service has failed to deliver as well, she says, and feels that the £83-a-week she pays for her house is not good value for money. "It's disgusting. They're just not looking after us."

Mrs Jones pointed out moss covered steps and uncut shrubs in the back garden that create a hazard for old and disabled people as well as a perimeter fence, broken in pieces, that has been rotting by the roadside for years.

Steps at the housing scheme that are covered in moss.
Steps at the housing scheme that are covered in moss.
A wooden fence was blown down years ago, claims Jenny. There has been no attempt to fix it back up and the pieces lie discarded.
A wooden fence was blown down years ago, claims Jenny. There has been no attempt to fix it back up and the pieces lie discarded.
Broken pieces of the fence have lain rotting by the roadside for a number of years.
Broken pieces of the fence have lain rotting by the roadside for a number of years.
View from Jenny Jones' back door showing a small section of the fence still standing. She was told that she would have to pay for any work done to fix it. Pictures: DGS
View from Jenny Jones' back door showing a small section of the fence still standing. She was told that she would have to pay for any work done to fix it. Pictures: DGS

"They [Highland Council] said if we wanted it put back up then we have to pay for it ourselves."

Mrs Jones then introduced us to some neighbours who have had similar issues at Oldfield Court. Retired building contractor David Lightfoot, aged 80, showed how insulation in his roof space had been "just thrown up".

Insulation material in David Lightfoot's loft space that he says is 'thrown up' and not helping maintain optimum heat in the property.
Insulation material in David Lightfoot's loft space that he says is 'thrown up' and not helping maintain optimum heat in the property.

"It gets really cold in here and I have to put the heating up. I'd go up and fix it [the insulation] myself but I broke my ankle and leg doing the Munros," said Mr Lightfoot.

However, the main issue he wished to point out is a cracked chimney stack that is shared between his house and neighbour George Douglas. "It's absolutely bad, it's going to kill somebody," said Mr Lightfoot.

Mr Douglas said he had reported the problem to the council on two separate occasions but had heard nothing back. "I was speaking to someone in the building trade who took one look at that and said it was a serious safety issue. If you get a strong wind from either direction that's ready for coming down," he said.

George Douglas, at left, with his neighbour David Lightfoot at Oldfield Court in Thurso. Picture: DGS
George Douglas, at left, with his neighbour David Lightfoot at Oldfield Court in Thurso. Picture: DGS
David Lightfoot points to the damaged chimney stack.
David Lightfoot points to the damaged chimney stack.
The tenants claim to have contacted the council about the cracked chimney but say they were ignored. Picture: DGS
The tenants claim to have contacted the council about the cracked chimney but say they were ignored. Picture: DGS

Mr Douglas added that lack of a proper warden for the sheltered housing complex meant that residents felt unsafe due to antisocial behaviour and drug users wandering about the area.

Similar concerns were raised in the past. In 2012 residents signed a petition demanding that a warden is made available on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to care for them after a long-serving warden retired and moved out of her flat, which was then rented out to applicants on the Highland housing register scheme.

Weeds growing out of guttering.
Weeds growing out of guttering.

The latest issues were highlighted in an email we forwarded to the four Highland councillors in Thurso on Monday afternoon. The following morning, Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Donnie Mackay paid a visit to Oldfield Court and listened to the residents' issues. Councillor Karl Rosie also said he will gladly help arrange contact with Highland Council's tenant liaison officer or through "direct contact with the constituents themselves".

Highland Council said that a maintenance officer would now carry out an inspection of the dangerous chimney stack. It also said that, over the last two years, other minor routine repair works have been carried out at numbers 14,15,16 and 20 plus repairs to communal fencing and the power washing and cleaning of footpaths.

Only part of the fence remains that once surrounded the back gardens at Oldfield Court in Thurso.
Only part of the fence remains that once surrounded the back gardens at Oldfield Court in Thurso.

A Highland Council spokesperson said: "The council takes all health and safety issues seriously and will follow up complaints but we do require residents to report them. All residents at the complex will be reminded of how they can raise any issues they are having so they can be followed up by our maintenance and housing team.

"Sheltered Wardens are maintaining phone contact. All physical contact is generally limited to necessary visits only across the service due to the on-going Covid pandemic but they are contactable via a phonecall."

Mrs Jones said she was "very pleased" that the tenants' concerns were now being addressed after the newspaper got involved.


Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More