Social housing: Woman in Clarion home ends up in A&E after plaster falls from ceiling

ITV News' Daniel Hewitt reports on a tenant whose corridor was filled with boiling water

Families were left standing in the freezing cold as boiling hot water gushed into the communal corridor in their flats and a woman ended up in A&E after plaster from her ceiling fell on her.

These were some of the tenants who spoke to ITV News about their plight as a government inquiry into the regulation of social housing in England is underway, prompted by ITV News' investigation.

During the first evidence session, Clare Miller, CEO of Clarion Housing Association, said she was "ashamed" by the poor living conditions on the Eastfields Estate, which were unearthed by ITV News. She also apologised to residents.

The inquiry was launched on November 16, 2021 and written evidence submissions will be published in the coming weeks.

Tracy Cordery, who lives in a property in Morden run by Clarion, spoke about being treated in hospital earlier in January after plaster from the ceiling collapsed on her head.

She recalled: "I just finished cooking my meal, dishing it all out, then all of a sudden I was standing there and then it just literally came down on my head, I just froze.

"My friend Natasha just screamed out, I think with the scream, it just scared me even more scared so I just froze and then a bit more came down on my head and then I ended up in A&E."

Tracy Cordery describes how she ended up in A&E after plaster from her ceiling fell on top of her

She continued: "I don’t even know what I was thinking, I was just in so much shock that it actually came down on my head and I’ve reported it to them to let them know that it’s getting worse and they just didn’t take any notice of it, they just kept on saying it’s not an emergency, it’s not an emergency."

Ms Cordery was placed in a neck brace at her local hospital, and the diagnosis letter she received states she has sprained her shoulder and suffered "muscular damage at shoulder level".

She says she is now experiencing headaches following the incident.

Ms Cordery said she contacted Clarion housing association on the day she moved in, on December 29, to make them aware of cracks on the kitchen ceiling and throughout the house, as well as water damage.

She contacted Clarion again a week later, but said she was told it was not an emergency and someone would visit her home on January 19 to inspect the damage.

Two days later, the ceiling plaster fell on her.

She told ITV News: "They don’t treat their tenants right. It’s like they don’t care how we’re living or what we’re going through. They do their 9-5 job and that's pretty much it."

Dee Curtis describes how she and other families waited hours in the freezing cold as boiling hot water gushed into the communal hallway to their flats

Dee Curtis, who lives in Carshalton, is also a tenant of Clarion's and has been living at her flat for eight years with her three children - aged five, eight and ten.

Last Sunday, she came home with her children from school just after 3pm to find hot water pouring from the ceiling in the communal hallway. Neighbours told her the leaking had started in the morning.

Unable to enter their homes, Ms Curtis and several other families were forced to wait outside in cold weather for four hours due to the water pouring in and the electrics not being secure.

Ms Curtis said she and her neighbours contacted Clarion for help, but no one was sent.

She said: "The only way to describe it, it was like it was raining. It was coming down with such force and it was very obvious it was hot water, the steam was rising.

"We had three or four lights along here and this light was sparking."

Hot, steaming water floods a corridor to flats

She continued: "My children were terrified. One of my children has additional needs, and she was petrified, she couldn’t sleep that night.

"She kept asking questions: 'If we hear a bang, do we come to you, mummy? Do we get our shoes? How will we get out, mummy? That’s our only way out.'

"All the children were scared. There were seven children out there, from one year old all the way to 10 years old. And they had heard the conversation and knew we was entering a property that wasn’t safe to be in.

"But we had no other option, we had nowhere to go."

The damaged ceiling of a residential building in Carshalton that is run by Clarion. Credit: Dee Curtis

She said: "This could’ve been so much worse and luckily no one was injured, but is that what it’s going to take for Clarion to finally realise that they’re failing their residents? For someone to get seriously hurt? Because this, it could’ve been a lot worse."

After waiting for more than two hours without any service people attending, Ms Curtis says a neighbour found repair people who were able to turn off the water and disconnect the power at around 6.30pm.

Ms Curtis said the leak has affected the electrics in the building and her Sky TV no longer works.

She claims she was told she could not make a complaint about Clarion's response.

What Clarion has said

Asked to respond to Ms Curtis' story, a spokesperson for Clarion said: "The leak was unfortunate but burst water pipes can occur anywhere and we believe that by fixing the problem within four hours after it was reported to us, and reinstating heating and electricity to the communal area in under 24 hours, our response was prompt and appropriate.

"We appreciate the leak must have been even more disconcerting for Ms DC as a parent.

"We are closely looking into the claims made about Clarion staff and that Ms DC was told that she could not report a complaint. She has every right to register a complaint should she wish and we will be discussing this with her this week."

In response to Ms Cordery's story, where ceiling plaster fell on top of the tenant, the spokesperson said: "Clarion works diligently to keep its properties in good repair and ensure its properties are let in a good and safe condition.

"When Ms Cordery took possession of the property on December 29, 2021, there were noted to be a few small hairline cracks in the kitchen ceiling.

"Clarion was first contacted by Ms Cordery about the ceiling in the property via our out-of-hours service on the January 6, 2022, where she reported water marks on the ceiling.

"As this was not an emergency, Ms Cordery was asked to telephone back the next day during normal office hours.

Tracy Cordery in A&E. Credit: Tracy Cordery

"Ms Cordery then telephoned Clarion on January 7, 2022, this time alleging that cracks were appearing in the ceiling. Based on the description and information provided by Ms Cordery, Clarion's representatives concluded that the level of damage reported by Ms Cordery did not classify as an emergency and booked an appointment for an operative to attend on January 19, 2022.

"Clarion was made aware on the evening of Sunday 9th January that a small patch of lightweight finishing plaster had separated from the plaster board that day.

"Following this we made an urgent appointment for a surveyor to attend the very next day.

"Whilst Clarion is sorry to hear of Ms Cordery’s visit to hospital, we would be very surprised if the reported injuries sustained were due to the falling of the lightweight finishing plaster, which is 2/3mm thick." ITV News has seen a letter from the hospital where Ms Cordery was treated stating that she sustained a suspected minor head injury and injured her shoulder due to the falling plaster.

Clarion CEO says she is 'ashamed' in government inquiry

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee on Monday afternoon held its first evidence session and heard from tenant groups and social housing providers.

During the hearing, Clarion CEO Clare Miller was asked specifically about ITV News' investigation into Eastfields Estate in Mitcham, south London, which found rats running through the 500-home estate and widespread disrepair of homes.

ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt outlines what was discussed at the government's social housing inquiry, where the CEO of Clarion housing association said she was 'ashamed'

Clarion was also asked what had gone wrong in general to lead to such problems.

Professor Ian Cole, chair of the South Yorkshire Housing Association, said during the hearing: "The ITV and other exposés, I think they've been scandalous. The actual conditions themselves were absolutely appalling. Secondly, the complete apparent absence of any communication..."

Asked if she agreed the revelations had been scandalous, Clarion CEO Clare Miller said: "Yes, I do. I was ashamed and we have apologised to the residents who were involved."