Scandal of COVID shielding couple left in the toilet

Toilet rolls aplenty... but why have an elderly shielding couple been left without an indoor toilet?

AN ELDERLY COUPLE SHIELDING FROM CORONAVIRUS have been left without an indoor bathroom since builders instructed by their Co-operative Insurance ripped out their bathroom in search of a water leak. . . and then left without repairing or rebuilding the room.

The toilet and shower were removed and wall and floor tiles taken up to eventually locate a leaking pipe behind where the lavatory once stood.

The insurance company’s solution was to install an outside ‘bathroom pod’ at the bottom of the garden. BUT THAT WAS THREE WEEKS AGO!

Since that time, and before contacting The Clarion for help, Jean and Bernie Eisenhauer had been struggling into the garden every wintry night to visit the emergency toilet which contains shower and lavatory and a small heater “which only heats the ceiling”, says Jean.

Both Jean and Bernie are in their mid-seventies. Both have had falls and Bernie suffers epilepsy, has an artificial heart valve and was recently fitted with a pacemaker. During the pandemic both have been shielding under NHS direction.

Despite this, their insurance-funded repairers have left them bathroom-less in their Branxton, Northumberland cottage, forced to visit the garden loo at all hours of the day and night in freezing, treacherous conditions. AND THEY STILL CAN’T SAY WHEN THE WORK WILL BE FINISHED.

Last night the best a spokesman for the Co-op Insurance could offer was this statement: “Supporting claims customers at their time of need is a priority. Alternative, Covid-safe accommodation was offered but the couple preferred to stay in their own home.

“In agreement with the customer, we installed a temporary bathroom pod whilst investigations to identify the cause of the water damage took place. Workers have been challenged in providing a start date for the completion of the building work because of a shortage of raw materials caused by the ongoing pandemic, which in turn can cause a backlog of jobs.

“We are sorry that the building work could not start immediately and our offer to provide somewhere else to stay remains open. We are liaising closely with Mr and Mrs Eisenhauer regarding their request to appoint their own contractors and to ensure that they are fully supported.”

A tearful Mrs Eisenhauer disputed the statement on the following lines:

1 Moving to temporary accommodation is unthinkable for a medically dependent couple who are shielding under NHS instruction.

2 The ‘temporary bathroom pod’ in the back garden has been their only toilet facility for three weeks so far and according to the insurers’ builders is likely to be their only facility for a further five weeks.

3 The ‘request to appoint their own contractors’ was made out of desperation after the insurance company’s builders’ inability to finish the work they had started.

Mrs Eisenhauer relayed the full, sorry saga after Co-op Insurance (now part of the Royal London) expressed its regret at its inability to progress the work.

“Our bathroom toilet sprang a leak on December 23rd,” said Jean, “but we were told nothing could be done over Christmas and New Year. Nothing really happened until about three weeks ago [around February 18th] when the builders came out all the way from Glasgow and ripped out all the terracotta floor and wall tiles and found the leak on the back wall next to the loo.

“Then they cleared off and seemed to forget about us. Every time I rang to ask when everything would be reinstalled( by this time our bathroom was lying in pieces on the garage floor) I was given excuses or told someone would contact us within 24 hours, but they never did.

“Eventually they told us nothing could be done for another five or six weeks. I was tearing my hair out at the very thought, especially as Bernie’s blood pressure was all over the place with all the stress and he had fallen twice in the garden.”

Co-operative Insurance offered the couple alternative accommodation or a cash settlement so they could employ their own builders but, according to Jean, “the settlement offer kept changing and it was all verbal, nothing in writing. . . and we were afraid to move because we were both highly vulnerable and shielding.”

Jean and Bernie did all the right things: they registered a complaint with Co-operative Insurance and then contacted the Insurance Ombudsman but are still waiting for a satisfactory response. In the meantime they bought a plastic paddling pool to put under the shower so they could at least wash indoors.

That was when Jean sought help from The Clarion. Tearfully, she described the agonies they had endured since before Christmas.

Sadly, the Co-op Insurance’s sympathetic but unhelpful response means that their ordeal is far from over.

If you feel can help where the Co-op has failed please contact the editor:


  1. May I make a further point: apart from the broken flooring, most of the parts a plumber would need are all over the floor of our garage. I can easily purchase the broken cistern for the toilet in town or from Screwfix today. Also what I had forgotten to tell you is that Bernie has a pacemaker monitor next to our bed which is connected to our internet modem, so another reason we cannot move into an apartment or hotel. Thanks for trying. Jean and Bernie Eisenhauer


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