Gloucester woman turns ‘purple with cold’ after gas supply capped by housing association

Shelly Van Damme and her daughter Skye had to move in with a friend after her house became too cold to live in
Shelly Van Damme and her daughter Skye had to move in with a friend after her house was too cold to live in. Credit: BPM Media

A woman from Gloucester who has severe arthritis has said she’s turned ‘purple with cold’ after her landlord capped her gas supply.

Shelly Van Damme, who has lived at her property in Tewkesbury for five years, says she missed gas engineer appointments because of repeated visits to hospital.

As a result, her gas supply has been capped and she has been left feeling broken by the cold in her home.

The 40-year-old said: "A gas engineer was sent out to cap my gas last month, and I have had to come and stay with my friend. I ache from head to foot.

"Since staying with my friend, I have only just begun being able to speak again as the cold made me so unwell.

“I fell down the stairs in November last year after a vertigo attack. I thought I had damaged my tendons and was sent for an MRI scan. The scan showed I have arthritis, and fibromyalgia in my back, neck and shoulders.

"Recently I was also diagnosed with having arthritis in my jaw and when I do not have heating or hot water it makes my health worse."

Shelly has arthritis in her legs and jaw, as well as fibromyalgia – both of which are made worse by the cold.

The wheelchair user, who also has a nine-year-old daughter named Skye, has adapted her two-bedroom home to her needs, including handrails on the stairs, bedroom, and bathroom.

Her friend insisted she and her daughter stay with her friend because of the cold causing her health to deteriorate.

Shelly said her skin started to bruise and turn purple because the cold made her arthritis worse Credit: BPM Media

Her landlord, Bromford Housing Association, says it has done 'all it can' to resolve the situation but has been unable to make contact with her.

Yet Miss Van Damme says she called Bromford twice to try to reschedule the appointments when the gas supply was capped.

She said: "Dates have been made to service the boiler when I was either in hospital or had to go to an appointment in December.

"They asked me to call them in the new year, but I knew I had an appointment in January for the MRI so I was waiting for that to come.

"I called them twice about getting it sorted and never had a call back. In February I heard a ring at my door and I was in bed poorly.

"Even with my disabilities, it would have taken time for me to answer the door, but a note was pushed through the door to say they had capped my gas."

Miss Van Damme called Bromford to explain her difficulties and how not having heating and hot water would affect her. She says on two occasions she was promised an engineer to visit that day.

Miss Van Damme said: "When I called back again to see what was happening, I was told the call out for an engineer had not been put on the system. I waited and stayed in as I was expecting someone to come round twice.

"By this time my body was purple where I was so cold. They expect you to wait in for hours, in either a morning or afternoon appointment, but my body cannot take it.

"They have made me ill physically and mentally. They still get their rent and fob tenants off. My daughter has been late for school because I have not been able to stay in Tewkesbury and been at my friend's place in Tuffley. I need my home with the adaptations.

"I was left without heating throughout all of those storms. I was lucky I had my friend offer to take me in as I have no support in Tewkesbury."

Bromford says it was forced to cap the gas after unsuccessful attempts to enter the property.

Bromford’s associate director of localities Dave Grinter said: "One of our central aims is to ensure that all of our customers have a home that is safe, secure, and warm and we have a legal responsibility to carry out regular safety checks including annual gas fire and boiler servicing.

"Unfortunately, and for Miss Van Damme’s own safety, we were forced to cap the gas at her property on February 16 after a number of unsuccessful attempts by letter, text message, and telephone to arrange a suitable time to carry out this essential servicing.

"We have continued to try to make contact to resolve the situation and on Friday (March 11) our contractor attended but was denied access to the property.

"We remain committed to finding a solution in the quickest possible manner and would urge the customer to contact Bromford as soon as possible."