The Wales Against Scams Partnership (WASP) is urging older and other vulnerable people to seek advice before agreeing to insulate their lofts with spray foam. This follows a spate of rogue traders misleading older people worried about soaring energy bills. Research on this issue has been compiled by a WASP working group with representatives from Age Cymru, Care & Repair Cymru, Get Safe Online, Tarian Regional Organised Crime Unit, and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, with support from Trading Standards Wales and Nest.
WASP warns that, while spray foam is legal, it is only appropriate in specific and limited circumstances and should only be applied by specialists. It should never be marketed as a quick-fix solution to loft insulation problems, as improper use can cause structural damage and make it very difficult to sell a property. Mortgage lenders are becoming increasingly cautious about spray foam.
More money in your pocket
Age Cymru’s policy officer Sam Young, who heads WASP, says: “We understand that many older people are worried about how they are going to pay their fuel bills this winter, and as a result may be even more vulnerable to rogue traders. Previous studies have shown that older people are the most likely age group to be targeted by scammers, with data from National Trading Standards showing that 85% of victims of doorstep scams are 65 and older.”
“In all situations we would urge older people to seek expert advice first and then make sure they’re claiming all their entitlements. However, millions of pounds worth of support, including £200mn worth of Pension Credit, go unclaimed in Wales each year.” Age Cymru publishes a free guide called More Money in Your Pocket that offers information about a range of benefits and how to go about claiming them.
The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that the third and final Cost of Living Payment of £299 will be paid out between 6 February and 22 February 2024. To qualify for this payment, you must have been entitled to a qualifying benefit, such as Pension Credit, between 13 November 2023 and 12 December 2023.
Pension Credit rules allow you to ask for a claim to be backdated for up to three months. You may therefore still be able to qualify for the third Cost of Living Payment, even if you’re not getting Pension Credit yet.
Targeted by spray foam scammers
WASP member Care & Repair Cymru provides home safety improvements for their clients. From their work in the community, they found that:
- One client paid more than £4,000 for spray foam loft insulation that was sold by a doorstep trader. The clients were older people with various health problems, including sight and hearing loss, and would have appeared vulnerable to the rogue trader.
- Another older client was persuaded to pay a £2,000 deposit for spray foam. Their family stopped the work from going ahead.
- One rogue trader claimed a UK government grant would cover most of the work, and that the client would ‘only’ have to pay £2,500 for spray foam installation.
- An older client bought spray foam loft insulation for £3,500 and found they were unable to sell their house as a result. It cost £2,000 to remove the foam before the house could be put back on the market. Moreover, the house was off the market for two months and during that time the property’s value had dropped by £15,000.
Care & Repair Cymru’s chief executive Chris Jones says: “Making your home more energy efficient is still important for your health, your finances, and the climate. However, we would urge people to be cautious and to do lots of research before going ahead with spray foam insulation work.”
Advice and support
Jones added: “Some local authorities have trusted trader lists, while they all should be able to advise on housing and environmental health queries. Trading Standards will have lists of approved traders under their ‘Buy With Confidence’ service, while local Care & Repair Cymru branches will be able to offer advice on reliable contractors working in their areas.”
Tony Neate, chief executive officer at Get Safe Online, said: “Although traditionally you think of rogue builders approaching you on your doorstep, it’s also important not to be conned by online adverts. Before you commit, make sure you do your homework. Check that the builder is reputable by looking at reviews, and ensure your mortgage provider agrees with any alterations you’re thinking of doing.”
If you want to talk to someone directly about benefits and entitlements, and any of the issues raised here, call Age Cymru on 0300 303 44 98 (charged at a local rate) from Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm. You can also email [email protected] or visit the cost of living section of our website.