Residents open up about years of horrific living conditions in Caerau

Lewis Smith

Residents have opened up about the impact years of horrific damp and mold has had on their families after a home insulation scandal involving poor workmanship wrecked a number of homes in a deprived area of Wales.

Those living in the more than 100 affected houses in the village of Caerau, near Maesteg, say stress, poor health, and thousand of pounds in personal costs have been the result of the scheme where Bridgend Council paid more than £300,000 to insulate homes under a grant known as Arbed.

Homes in Caerau that were subject to the poor installations say they have suffered with issues such as damp, mould and structural damage to the homes in the ten years since work first began, costing many up to almost £20,000 each in repairs.

While Welsh Government agreed to set aside around £2.65m worth of funding to rectify the situation a year ago, as of January 2023 it seems that so far no work has begun on the Bridgend houses.

Rhiannon Goodall 38, lives in one of the houses where the insulation was fitted, and says after almost ten years of fighting for help she is now at her wits end.

She said: “I’m very angry about this if I’m honest because it’s just one excuse after another. We’re ten years down the line since the scandal happened and we’re no further along with any help than we were in the beginning.

“I get quite down about it actually, and it’s definitely starting to affect my mental health. I don’t know what more I can do, and even though I want to keep fighting for myself and the other residents it is beginning to take it’s toll.

“It’s just so upsetting seeing the house crumbling around you. People might not understand how bad it is without seeing it, but living in this environment can get you down, especially as I know it wasn’t like this before the insulation was fitted.

“The issues with the damp have actually gotten significantly worse, and we constantly have paint and plaster running off the walls to where it’s almost pointless me trying repair it any more.

“It’s so disheartening, and to be honest I think the whole thing has been dealt with appallingly. We thought all our dreams had come true when we first heard about this offer ten years ago, for the free boiler and insulation, but that has literally turned in to a nightmare.

“While it’s been difficult I’m just hoping that this can be sorted soon, though at this point I won’t believe it until I see it. The amount of damage this insulation has caused to homes in the village is nobodies business, and I hope they do something to fix it as soon as possible.”

Stuart Roberts and Jayne Roberts have lived in their home in Caerau since 1994, and say as the first home to have the work done under the Arbed scheme, they have suffered with the same issues caused by the shoddy workmanship.

Jayne said: “We saw the announcement that they had money set aside to rectify this situation, but we haven’t heard anything off them at all yet. I’ve sent I don’t know how many emails and phone-calls to councillors but nobody has got back to me, even to let us know if we are on some kind of list for when it starts.

“We’re hopeful it will happen this year because our house is falling apart. As you can see there’s parts of the walls we painted over as little as two weeks ago and it is already starting to turn black with mould again.

“Our upstairs bathroom is beyond bad and when you have something like this it can start to make you lose hope. You come up here to wash it all down but within two weeks it has all come back. As the insulation is still on the inside and outside of the walls they’re not breathing, which means the damp patches keep popping up everywhere.

“It’s not nice, especially when you want to have guests round to visit the house and you end up feeling so embarrassed because they can see the state of the walls. It’s terrible, and obviously they know it’s not our fault but you can’t help but feel that way.

“We’ve never lived like this before, and the house used to be perfect before this happened. In fact every wall in this house was a brand-new after a previous council grant, with the house always being lovely and warm. It’s always freezing in here now and you can’t do anything to decorate as its ruined within a matter of weeks.”

Richie Humphreys, 79, has also been affected by the works and says the damage caused by the Arbed scheme has left people in the community simply feeling forgotten.

He said: “I think we’ve been let down in Caerau to be honest, and I think we’ve been treated very very harshly by the people behind this scheme. I’ve been fighting this since 2014 now but it just feels like we don’t exist here in Caerau.

“Just look at the damp on the outside walls of my house. I’ve had to have a new kitchen because of the damp, only to have it ripped out less than six years later with the same problems.

“We’ve had to correct a lot of the errors made by paying ourselves, and it’s cost us thousand of pounds in total which isn’t fair. For me I was lucky to this point to have some collateral to help me maintain it but that’s gone now and we need somebody to step in.

“Before this me and my wife used to go on holidays every year but now it just seems that all our money goes on repairs to the house which is very sad.”

Julie Goodridge has lived in her home in Caerau for more than 31 years, and says with water running from the walls, and crumbling window arches, she wonders how much more she can take for both her mental and physical health.

She said: “The issues that we have with damp and mould in my house now are issues we never used to have before this work took place and something needs to be done to fix it.

“They said over a year ago they were coming to rectify this situation with Welsh Government funding, but here we are more than a year down the line and there’s still no sign of it.

“The way it’s going I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re here saying the same thing in another years time- and that’s my biggest worry.

“We’ve heard nothing at all and it is just disgusting. The bedrooms in my house are so bad we literally can’t put anything in them because of the damp. You wouldn’t put a dog in there to be honest.

“If you even touch the plaster on the walls of the house you can basically put your finger right through it, and it’s only getting worse over time.

“Health-wise it’s also bad living in these kind of damp conditions as it can really leave me struggling to breathe. It’s shocking that we have to put up with it in this day and age and everyone affected by this feels the same way.”

A Bridgend County Borough Council Spokesperson, said: “The Council remains in positive dialogue with Welsh Government about finalising the remaining details of the grant award.

“We received confirmation that the Welsh Government Climate Change Minister signed off the award in December and since then we have moved quickly to progress matters by appointing a Programme Manager and Strategic Expert Advisor to lead on this important programme of work.

“Also, we are currently in the process of recruiting a resident’s liaison officer and hope to be able to write to all eligible households with details of the proposed programme of work soon.

“We continue to sympathise with all concerned and we are confident that our agreement with Welsh Government will result in a long-term sustainable solution for residents. The work will also include energy efficiency measures that were originally planned as part of the initial Arbed Scheme.”

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