A TOP politician and a “leading” housing association are once more under the microscope after it was revealed a busted intercom on a building housing the elderly and infirm has still not been repaired after more than two months.

Sanctuary Housing, and Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan, are facing tough questions as to why the entry system at Town Bridge Court, in Chesham, has been faulty since at least November – and why an elderly disabled person in Berkhamsted is listed as an ‘emergency contact’.

Bucks Free Press: Since the intercom was found to be faulty, Sanctuary Housing installed a secure box and key accessible by four-digit code, until the new parts arrived.

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However, it appears the code is not known to all carers and delivery people trying to access Town Bridge, and that directions on who to call printed on the door mean anyone walking past could get in if they wanted to.

Some residents are immobile or disabled, and some have degenerative brain diseases.

One family member in their 80s, who is themselves disabled and living in Berkhamsted, said they have been called by people asking to get in because their contact details are “on the register for emergencies”, but that they are letting people in blindly and ‘in good faith’.

“One of the carers’ companies called me to say a carer couldn’t get in, so I just gave them the code because the carers have got to get in,” they said.

“The company should have known the access code to give to those carers who have to get in to do the caring.”

They said they should not be one of the default contact persons, that they fear for residents’ safety, support access and unchecked visitors getting in the building. Adding: “I don’t think Sanctuary Housing are taking on their responsibility.”

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“I’ve got no authority at all,” they said. “I’m not next of kin, I have no position apart from being a partner…of one of the residents.

“The larger the number of people who have the code means anybody could get in, basically.

“There was a sheet of paper on the door which said, ‘phone this number to get the code’. That means anybody just passing by could phone up, get the code and get in and those residents are vulnerable.”

Bucks Free Press: They said the key box is ‘not easy’ to use, adding: “It’s a solution but it really isn’t adequate, and it’s been like this for two months. They should be putting a new system in – like, yesterday.

“Sanctuary Housing say [intercom] parts are on order but that the system is also obsolete. Replacing the system is the only sensible solution.

“If they’re not going to hurry up and get the repairs done, more and more people are going to get to know the code.” 

When they previously contacted Ms Gillan MP for help, she told them she could ‘not do anything about it’ because they are ‘not one of her constituents’, they said.

Ms Gillan said she had “not refused to help”, adding she needed permission from their local MP, Gagan Mohindra.

“I tried once again to get in touch with [Ms Gillan] and once again got the reply, ‘as I’m not a constituent [she] cannot do anything about it’,” they said. “So, my response was: ‘the residents are your constituents and therefore you should take it up on their behalf’.”

In response, a spokesperson for Ms Gillan said: "Dame Cheryl sympathises with the residents and their friends and families in what is a difficult situation, especially given that the Tier 5 alert lockdown is now in place.

"As constituency MP, Dame Cheryl has been in contact with Sanctuary Housing and is urging them to resolve this situation with all urgency.

"With regard to the lockdown, this is one of the reasons that Dame Cheryl has been asking for the government to set out the possible timescale as individuals, organisations and businesses all need to have an idea of the timescale involved, to address such a concerning situation."

A spokesperson for Sanctuary Housing said: “We are sorry for the delays repairing the intercom system and understand the residents’ frustration. While it took longer than expected for the new door entry panel to arrive, we can confirm it was installed by our external contractor on Thursday 14 January. Additional work is now being arranged to complete the installation.

“As the residents at Townbridge Court live independently, on 10 December we wrote to them to provide the code to the key safe so they could share it with anyone who supports them and needs to have access to the building. We have also ensured the relevant care agencies and any essential visitors have the code to enable them to gain access as required.”

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