I Want to Tell You My Story
Hi, I'm Caroline, and I Want to Tell You My Story.
In October 2003 we moved to our current home in Swansea. We knew we had some work to do, but bit by bit we did our best to make it a home to accommodate a family-of-four with disabilities and complex health issues.
In 2005, we were literally hounded to have a Government Grant to install Cavity Wall Insulation – they said it was going to reduce our bills, make our home warmer, etc. So, we agreed, and it took no longer than an hour or two to put it in our walls.
Over the years we noticed more and more condensation, mould, and bubbling paint. Then, all of a sudden, chunks of plaster began to fall off our walls in our living room, our bedroom and our daughter’s room. We tried to repair it but as quick as we tried, the fiercer the damage became.
Introducing My Family…
For you to even begin to imagine what this was like for us I want to introduce my quirky family: Steve, Amy-Claire, Emma and me.
My daughter, Amy-Claire, is a formidable young woman who lives with multi system disease, that has no aetiology – it’s a posh way of saying nothing works, but we don’t know why. She has been under palliative care since her early teens and sometimes has given us a real run for our money, spending literally weeks living in Ty Hafan hospice, unsure if we would all leave. Her dad says she can make a wall smile.
Her dad and my hubbie is Steve. He has been our shining star, the one who has always been there. He loved his rugby, cycling, his garden and allotment. Then it all changed slowly. He had fatigue and extreme pain, and hardly slept. He has now been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. He was immediately started on a weekly dose of Methotrexate and a plethora of medications. He has found this so tough.
Emma is Steve’s sister, who we believe lives with learning disabilities and autism. Daily life can make Emma very anxious, and she can find it difficult to interact with the world in the usual way.
Finally, I (Caroline) live with a life limiting complex health condition which also brings unpredictable life-threatening episodes with it.
What Exactly Was Going On?
So, back to the house, we decided to start trying to pin down what exactly was going on. We had been informed by some builder friends that our issue looked likely to be the cavity wall insulation, and we should be covered by a guarantor. Mmmmm, if only that were the simple case! After countless emails and speaking to the local authority, we had no such luck.
We now knew we had been duped into getting the insulation and left high and dry with what was going to be a big repair job, and the danger would be that we would be duped again by someone pretending they were repairing the damage if we could have funded it. So, what to do next. Well, we started calling agencies. Age Cymru put us onto Care & Repair and then things started to change.
Care & Repair were so helpful from the outset. They recommended a damp survey which would cost us £90, they explained this would give us an accurate diagnosis of the problem. Once we had an accurate diagnosis of the issue then, if we went via Care & Repair, they would project manage it and we may be able to source some financial help to sort it. They put us in touch with Deb, a Care & Repair team member at Care & Repair Western Bay, who took some details and explained we might be able to source some benevolent funding or charitable funding – she couldn’t promise but would do her best.
Covid being Covid kind of got in the way at this point and we had to wait until lockdown was lifted to have the survey. Our damp survey was undertaken in July 2020, and poor old Care & Repair Technical Officer Paul thought I was stalking him to try and find out what we were looking at. We lost so much sleep over it, let me tell you. We kept going over and over in our heads, why did we agree to put it in, what were we going to do if we couldn’t find the repair money, if we walked away where would we all go?
It was a really anxious time for us all, but especially me and Steve.
"I knew he sensed the sheer panic in my voice over the phone when he then said to me: 'Stop worrying, Care & Repair are going to fund the work.' I asked him to repeat it again, I started to cry and said, 'you can’t, it’s too much to ask.'"
It Was Bad, Really Bad!
Then Paul rang from Care & Repair. I remember it was a Friday afternoon – I held my breath. It was bad, really bad, and it was a lot of work! I knew he sensed the sheer panic in my voice over the phone when he then said to me: “Stop worrying, Care & Repair are going to fund the work.” I asked him to repeat it again, I started to cry and said, “you can’t, it’s too much to ask.” I cried and cried, he told me to go and try and have a good weekend and not to worry too much about it.
I don’t think I can put into words the level of relief I felt that day – I did keep thinking, did they really say that to us.
We then signed a contract with Care & Repair which means they basically oversee our work and make sure we are most certainly not duped!
Do these Things Ever Go to Plan?
The work started in November 2020, and they were right, it’s a lot of work. The toughest bit, like any building work anyone undertakes, is that it has not gone to the original plan. The wall ties in our walls were compromised by the soaking insulation, so we were told we would need to find more money to sort out the ties as a matter of urgency. But Care and Repair came to the rescue again!
It didn’t end there though; extraction was originally planned for one wall, but because of the state of the wall they explored the other 3 walls to find they were in a similar state. The insulation needed to come out, and the ties needed replacing… another £4,900! I cried again. My daughter was so angry about it all, she put a rant on Facebook saying that we are good people trying to do their best and all that had happened. Shortly after, I started to get a few messages, saying, “What do you need?” or “What can we do?”. Incredibly, one anonymous source gave us half the amount straight away!! There is good in this world!
We now have just one more wall to membrane internally, but it’s going to have to wait until the summer. We have had such tough times in this house, and we have fought to keep it when times were really hard. Yet, our quirky house means everything to us – and we cannot thank Care & Repair enough for everything you have done for us.
In fact, you might have made the most talkative family speechless – THANK YOU SO MUCH!
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