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Chancellor’s Green Homes Grant must not go to dodgy cavity wall insulation firms, ministers warn

Ministers are calling on the government to protect homeowners after it was revealed that at least 800,000 homes have had faulty cavity wall insulation installed at their properties.  

Following the government’s announcement of a new energy efficiency scheme this month, MPs and campaigners have expressed their concerns about how property owners will be protected from suppliers who fail to meet required standards.

They have also called for registered installers with the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) to be investigated after industry insiders told the BBC that at least 800,000 homes had been hit by faulty cavity wall insulation.    

The rising fears come just weeks after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £2billion Green Homes Grant that would allow homeowners and landlords to receive grants of up to £5,000 for insulation and other energy efficiency measures from September. 

Sharing his heartache, Gavin Ward, whose insulation work was guaranteed by the CIGA, described how he was forced to leave his home in Bridgend, Wales, after it was deemed ‘uninhabitable’ by the council.  

Mr Ward, who was faced with unsafe electrics, damp and mould, said his ordeal began three years prior when he had cavity wall insulation fitted by the company Miller Pattison.

A later examination by a surveyor revealed that the insulation company had not removed the debris from inside the cavity before injecting the mineral wool insulation.

Mr Ward told MailOnline: ‘Our installation was done in April 2011 by Miller Pattison. Their pre-installation inspection was not done to standards. Only one inspection hole was drilled in one wall. 

‘They are supposed to be in each elevation to check for rubble and cavity depth. It transpires that our home had a significant level of rubble in the cavity, along with other issues that would have made it unsuitable from the start.

‘Having not assessed the house correctly they ploughed ahead and did the install. They then installed it negligently – again not having knowledge at the time we did not know this. 

‘Their drill pattern was incorrect, they did not fill to a correct density, did not install a brush strip, areas were left out and the house was in a location unsuitable for cavity wall insulation.

‘We didn’t notice problems until late 2016 and not for one minute did we think it would have been to do with the cavity wall insulation that was installed to make the house warmer and more energy efficient. 

‘We did notice our bills increasing but thought that was just due to energy prices – and not that the insulation was becoming wet / saturated. Again could not see it on the inside wall surfaces, as it was going on within the cavity.’ 

After looking for advice online, Mr Ward found that his problems were due to a faulty cavity wall insulation.

He continued: ‘I looked online for advice and saw others with similar problems. I arranged for an assessment and was told that it was due to the cavity wall insulation. 

‘I instructed a solicitor as it was evident that the damage by far exceeded the CIGA guarantee of £25,000. At the point of sending the initial letter of claim from our solicitor (in March 2017) the level of damage was circa £40,000.’ 

Despite his efforts to get the insulation company to correct the problem, Mr Ward said he would not be able to receive any money after the company went into voluntary administration.

Mr Ward added: ‘It’s all well and good the government putting things right for the future but they need to look at all of those that have been let down and had to give up the fight along the way. There needs to be an inquiry.

‘A lot of the people that had this work done are vulnerable and those that are not already vulnerable become it during the process of fighting for justice.’

Cavity wall insulation involves injecting materials, such as mineral wool or polystyrene beads, through holes drilled on the outside walls and is carried out to help property owners remain warm.     

However there are now increasing calls from campaigners and MPs to investigate registered installers with the industry-funded body CIGA, with those inside the industry telling the BBC that at least 800,000 homes have been hit by faulty cavity wall insulation. 

While the the CIGA has since admitted that the insulation by the company in Mr Ward’s case should not have been installed and have offered to have it removed, they said they will not pay the £60,000 repair bill.    

A CIGA spokesperson said: ‘Following a letter received by Mr Ward’s MP CIGA pushed forward, despite still no reported concern, in carrying out an investigation and followed the correct course of action as required under the guarantee.’

They added: ‘CIGA recognises that on occasion the Cavity Wall Insulation Industry has not got it right and as a result of some poor practices a number of homeowners have been affected.

‘CIGAs response to this in 2016 was not as good as it should have been and as a result CIGA carried out a full review of its structure and processes.

‘CIGAs appointed independent Non Executive Advisors to its board, appointed a Consumer Champion (now Consumer Focus), set up a UKTSI approved arbitration scheme, published an annual review and resourced up to a level to guarantee a response to what are stretching Key Performance Indicators.

‘At peak CIGA was dealing with 4809 claims per annum and since having dealt with a backlog following the administration of a number of significant operators in the market such as the Mark Group and Carillion CIGA now deals with on average 3250 claims per annum and currently has 540 open cases which we are actively dealing with.

‘CIGA have routinely carried out random and targeted quality inspections of installations under the Guarantee scheme, and since our certification system was put in place in September 2017 has been directly responsible for 5% surveillance of Certified installers.

‘We continue to put in place additional measures of quality and compliance that are robust and effectively managed.’         

Mr Ward’s ordeal is among thousands of stories which have seen homeowners homes fall victim to poor insulation, campaigners say.

Pauline Saunders, from the Cavity Insulation Victims’ Alliance, CIVALLI, told the BBC that much of the work carried out by earlier schemes had left affected some of the most vulnerable in society.

Ms Saunders, who last year was shortlisted for Inside Housing’s Women in Housing Awards, went on to say that some in the industry ‘treat people like idiots’. 

Meanwhile the Labour MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones, has said that he had written to ministers asking how property owners would be protected following the new scheme.

According to the CIGA’s website, the independent body provides 25 year guarantees for Cavity Wall Insulation fitted by registered installers in the UK and Channel islands.  

In his mini-Budget this month, Mr Sunak confirmed a £2billion Green Homes Grant from September would mean homeowners and landlords could get grants up to £5,000 for insulation and other energy efficiency measures.

Some of the lowest income households will get the full costs of energy efficiency refits paid up to £10,000.

The types of improvements to be offered include wall-to-wall insulation, energy efficient boilers, double or triple-glazed windows, low-energy lighting and insulated doors. 

The funding also includes £1billion to improve the energy efficiency and low carbon heating for schools, hospitals, prisons, military bases and other public buildings and £50 million to pilot ways to cut carbon from social housing. 

Mr Sunak claimed that his eco-boosting measures would make 650,000 homes more energy efficient, save households up to £300 on their annual bills, cut carbon emissions by 500,000 tonnes and support 140,000 jobs. 

  

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