…By Lola Smith for TDPel Media.
In a distressing incident, the lifeless body of 76-year-old Robert Alton was discovered in his flat six years after his passing.
The shocking revelation came to light when the landlord obtained a court order to enter the property and inspect the gas supply.
An inquest concluded that Mr. Alton likely died in May 2017.
The housing association, Bolton at Home, expressed deep shock and acknowledged their failure to check on Mr. Alton’s welfare, vowing to take immediate action to prevent such an occurrence in the future.
Failure to Check on Tenant’s Welfare:
Bolton at Home’s chief executive officer, Noel Sharpe, acknowledged the housing association’s responsibility and expressed their dismay at the situation.
He revealed that numerous attempts had been made to contact Mr. Alton over the years, as his rent was paid through housing benefits.
Despite these efforts, the organization’s previous procedures and attempts to understand the situation had not been sufficient.
Mr. Sharpe admitted that opportunities were missed to identify potential problems and expressed regret over their failure to check on Mr. Alton’s welfare.
Policy Change and Discovering the Body:
Following this tragic incident, Bolton at Home implemented a policy change in July 2022.
The new policy mandates the acquisition of legal warrants to gain access to tenants’ homes when they cannot be contacted for gas safety checks.
It was this change that eventually led to the discovery of Mr. Alton’s body.
Mr. Sharpe emphasized that the housing association had taken immediate action to reduce the risk of such incidents occurring again, recognizing the profound impact it had on both the organization and the community.
Steps to Prevent Recurrence:
Bolton at Home has not only modified their procedures but also aims to strengthen their approach to ensure the welfare of tenants.
They have initiated measures to facilitate closer collaboration between the tenancy support team and the gas safety team in cases where access to a property is challenging and concerns about the tenant’s well-being arise.
The organization is committed to exploring additional steps to further mitigate the risk of similar tragedies in the future.
Apologies and Condolences:
Mr. Sharpe extended heartfelt condolences to the loved ones, friends, and neighbors of Robert Alton.
He acknowledged the missed opportunities to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Alton’s inability to be contacted and expressed sincere apologies for the organization’s shortcomings in this regard.
Bolton at Home recognizes the pain caused by their failure and is committed to rectifying their procedures and providing better support to ensure the well-being of their tenants.
Coroner’s Verdict and Untraced Relatives:
Coroner Peter Sigee recorded an open verdict on the case, as the cause and exact circumstances of Mr. Alton’s death remain uncertain.
Despite Greater Manchester Police’s efforts to locate relatives through an appeal, no family members have been traced at this time.
Analysis and Commentary:
The tragic discovery of Robert Alton’s body in his home, six years after his death, raises significant concerns about the duty of care and welfare checks in the housing sector.
The incident highlights the necessity for robust protocols to ensure the well-being of vulnerable individuals, especially those receiving housing benefits or living alone.
Bolton at Home’s acknowledgment of their failure and subsequent policy changes demonstrate a commitment to rectifying the situation and preventing similar incidents.
By implementing the requirement for legal warrants and enhancing collaboration between support teams, the organization aims to minimize the risk of tenants being left unattended for extended periods.
However, the incident underscores the need for a broader examination of welfare checks and procedures across housing associations and landlords in general.
Stricter guidelines and increased oversight may be necessary to ensure the well-being of tenants, particularly those who may be isolated or have limited support systems.