Blind man forced to carry boiling kettles around his Milton Keynes home after being left without hot water for 15 days

A blind man's plight was "not considered an emergency" by his housing association in MK, he claims.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 4:43 pm
Updated Monday, 1st March 2021, 5:31 pm

Mike Gurney, who is 74, has been visually impaired since he was a small child and can now see nothing at all.

He can normally cope admirably around his house and take on most tasks with the help of his guide dog Tess.

At the beginning of February his heating and hot water system stopped working and he called his landlords, Grand Union Housing Group, to report it.

Mike Gurney has been visually impaired since he was a child

Though the heating was very quickly fixed, Mike was left waiting two weeks for the hot water to be repaired. He was told the problem was a faulty wire.

"I was having to boil water in the kettle and carry across the house to where I needed it to wash, etc. That's not a safe thing to do at all when you can't see," he said.

To make matters worse, Mike's faithful guide dog Tess insisted on sticking by her master's side during the risky solution to his problem.

"I was worried I'd trip and spill some of the boiling water on Tess or myself," said Mike, who lives in Deanshanger.

Mike and Tess

He called Grand Union several times to complain. He claims on one occasion he was told it was "not an emergency" to be without hot water for days.

"I would say for a blind person it is an emergency, extremely dangerous and highly unacceptable," he said.

In desperation, Mike asked the MK Citizen to step in. We contacted Grand Union and the next day a worker was sent to repair Mike's boiler. His hot water system is now fully working.

The Citizen also reported the comment allegedly made to Mr Gurney by a Grand Union worker.

Aileen Evans, Group Chief Executive, Grand Union Housing Group, told us in response: “We strive to provide a great customer experience every day, so we’re really sorry and disappointed that Mr Gurney has not had this."

She added: "We don’t want any of our customers to be without hot water for any period of time, especially those who are vulnerable or disabled. Unfortunately, while the heating was fixed within 24 hours, the hot water required multiple parts to be ordered and replaced, which meant our contractors attended multiple times throughout the period he was without hot water.

"This took much longer than we would like, and we apologise for the inconvenience it caused Mr Gurney.”

When asked about the 'not an emergency' comment, a Grand Union spokesman said: "We don’t always class no hot water as an emergency as some customers have other means of hot water such as electric showers, a kettle or somewhere else to shower. We still try to attend these as quickly as possible though.

"However, in My Gurney’s case, due to his situation, we did class it as an emergency, which was why we initially attended within 24 hours...The delays were due to ordering parts, further issues being discovered and not being able to get in touch with Mr Gurney."