/Cavity Wall Insulation: “A panto with many villains”

Cavity Wall Insulation: “A panto with many villains”



(Title Image: hedslaw.co.uk)

The Issue

This won’t get anywhere near the attention as the other debate yesterday, but…..

Cavity wall insulation spiked in popularity a few years ago as a relatively straightforward way to improve the energy efficiency of a home and reduce fuel bills, sometimes sold as being “government-backed” which made it attractive to the elderly, disabled and those on low or fixed incomes.

However, poor work can lead to issues that are particular to Wales. Driving rain can, when combined with the insulation, cause serious damp and mould problems affecting the health of residents.

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Recognises that cavity-wall insulation when correctly installed in suitable properties can be a cost-effective way of reducing fuel bills, thereby contributing to reductions in fuel poverty and carbon emissions.
  • Believes there remains a significant minority of installations that are not complying with good workmanship standards, and for which seeking compensation is often difficult and inadequate.
  • Urges the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government, the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) and others to provide proper compensation for incorrect installation and to strengthen consumer protections.

Key Points

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd)
For (the motion): There are numerous problems.

  • “The cavity wall insulation pantomime has few heroes, but many villains”; energy companies are only interested in meeting government targets not standards of work, rogue installation companies target the poor with cold-calling and the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) which is an “independent” watchdog set up by and for the industry itself.
  • It needs to be made clear that the insulation isn’t government backed.
  • Salespeople undergo minimal training to decide whether a property is suitable; almost all of Wales is located in an area with “extreme rain conditions” which render the insulation fibres useless and acting like a sponge for moisture.
  • Complaints and compensation is a torturous process; CIGA only has the funds to honour 1,000 of 6 million guarantees.
  • Paid tribute to CIVALLI – a voluntary organisation representing victims of mis-selling.

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central)
For: Poor practices let the entire industry down.

  • Cavity wall insulation is an important measure to reduce the estimate 291,000 households in Wales in fuel poverty; it can save £150 a year in heating bills when done right.
  • Acknowledges a “significant minority” of poor installations; the industry has a lot to do to improve the standard of workmanship. What’s the point of promoting it if it causes more problems?

Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon)
For: It’s still being promoted despite the problems caused.

  • Only a quarter of homes with cavity wall insulation have had no problems.
  • Much of the work was carried out by companies contracted under the UK Government’s “Green Deal”; the big energy companies are still promoting it.
  • CIGA has a history of not taking complaints seriously; one constituent has been battling with problems for four years.

Dawn Bowden AM (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
For: It takes money away from vulnerable people.

  • An elderly constituent had insulation installed as part of “a government scheme” and is now experiencing major damp; the contractor said it was due to condensation.

Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West)
For: Story of the founder of CIVALLI.

  • The founder of CIVALLI – Pauline Saunders – is a constituent. Her home had always been free from damp but after cavity-wall insulation was installed the wallpaper bubbled and wood panelling became mouldy.
  • Contractors said the damp issue was due to property maintenance; they didn’t offer any solution.
  • A CIGA surveyor inspected the property and ignored a problem which meant cavity wall insulation shouldn’t have happened (debris in the cavity).
  • Pauline only received compensation (£1,750) and had the insulation removed when a report saying her home was unsuitable was sent to her in error.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)
For: It’s an all-Wales, cross-party issue.

  • AMs get upset when they see people who have to endure poor work, develop health problems or see the value of their homes fall; it impacts the elderly and poor more and the elderly are often reluctant to complain.

Welsh Government Response

Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham)

  • 67,630 installations under a competent person scheme introduced by the Welsh Government have taken place since 2010.
  • Since 1995, CIGA has received 4,100 complaints from Wales out of 330,000 guarantees.
  • Building inspections in Wales for insulation will need to be independently checked as of October this year.
  • The Welsh Government’s Arbed and Nest energy efficiency programmes have robust quality control procedures and she hopes the UK Government will copy this; Wales doesn’t allow cold-calling and has stricter inspections.

Vote

The motion was agreed unanimously.