Following from the BtP investigation into asbestos in public housing (EXCLUSIVE: 70,000 NIHE PROPERTIES HAVE ASBESTOS) I decided to apply the same rationale to the next most important thing in the public service to readers – the Health Service.

I asked each of the respective Health Trust to outline how many buildings they have identified as having asbestos or asbestos-related material in the last five years and if there has been any work to remedy the asbestos in the same period.  We also asked that they identify the buildings.

Some were more forthcoming than others.

Rather than identifying every single instance of asbestos being found across sites in each Trust area, I am going to focus on primary sites such as hospitals, though many Trusts have provided a comprehensive list.


The South Eastern Trust decided not to follow the request to the full, and did not outline specific sites or buildings where asbestos was found.  In its response, the Trust said that it had 176 properties listed with 261,084 square metres of accommodation.  It confirmed that approximately 75% of these contain a form of asbestos-related material.

In terms of removing the asbestos, the Trust told me it has an ongoing programme of works to survey its buildings and monitor the condition of asbestos.  During major construction /refurbishment works the Trust will remove asbestos and if possible deliver a clearance note for the building.


The Western Trust complied fully with the request.  The Trust has 161 instances of asbestos across its estate, 28 of these have been treated or removed in the last five years.

Altnagelvin Hospital

The Trust has identified 27 places within the Hospital that have some form of asbestos.  These buildings include Trust Headquarters, the main kitchen, the Geriatric Unit, and outpatients/day surgery.  The Tower Block itself has had asbestos removed in the last five years.

Tyrone County Hospital

The Trust has identified 18 buildings within the TCH site that have asbestos, 3 of them have been treated within the last five years.  The main switch room, main boiler room and outpatients centre are all identified as currently having asbestos and not having been treated in the last five years.  The Main Hospital Block has been treated in the same period.

Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital

The Trust has identified 30 buildings within this hospital as having asbestos, with 8 of these having been treated in the last five years.  The mortuary and water tower are on the list of those not treated as well as the Nurses Home, though the Main Building has been treated.


The Southern Trust has 162 instances of asbestos on its estate.  In their response, it outlined the site where the asbestos was, and identified the exact item it was found on.  It did not identify what treatment or when, if ever, carried out.

Craigavon Area Hospital

The Main Building of the hospital site has a large number of instances in the response, as well as ‘external areas’.

Lurgan Hospital

The Lurgan Hospital Ward Block shows a number of instances of asbestos, though we cannot determine if these have been treated.

South Tyrone Hospital

As with Lurgan, the Main Block of South Tyrone Hospital has instances of asbestos in it, though the treatment if any has not been identified.

Daisy Hill Hospital

Daisy Hill site also has instances of asbestos, and more specifically, the Nurses Home is affected.BHSCT

The Belfast Trust has identified 179 buildings on its estate that have asbestos – and has identified that 93 of these have been treated in the last five years, the most of any Trust.

Royal Group of Hospitals

The RGH have identified 42 buildings that have some form of asbestos in them, with 25 of these having been treated.  Broadway Tower and the Communications Building are two of those identified as not having had any work done in the last five years to remove asbestos.

Mater Infirmorum Hospital

The Mater identified 5 buildings  on its estate that have asbestos, 2 of these have had asbestos removed in the period.

Belfast City Hospital

BCH identified 13 buildings on its estate that have asbestos, with 6 of these having been treated.  Those that have not include the Transport department and Lisburn Road Childcare Centre.

Musgrave Park

Musgrave Park identified 16 instances of asbestos across its estate, half of these having been treated.  The Main Building, however, has not been treated in the last five years.


The Northern Trust were asked for the same information as all others on 31st May 2016, and took until October 4th to provide a response, somewhat outside the 20 days set out in law.

Holywell Hospital, Antrim

The Holywell site identified 9 buildings on their site that have had asbestos, all of these have been treated in the last five years.

Dalriada Hospital

The Dalriada site has identified two instances of asbestos including the Health Centre and Store.  Both of these have not been treated in the last five years.

Antrim Area Hospital

The Hospital identified 16 buildings that have asbestos, none of which have been treated in he last five years.  These include the Main Block and the Renal Unit.

Mid-Ulster Hospital

The Mid-Ulster site identified ten buildings with asbestos, 8 of which have been treated.  Those not treated in the last five years include the main ward block.

Whiteabbey Hospital

Whiteabbey identified eight buildings that have asbestos, none of these have been treated in the last five years.  The buildings include Social Services and Wards 9 & 10.





As part of our ongoing investigations into the state of the Housing Executive, we decided to look at the state of the housing stock itself, which was, for the most part, built between the 1960’s and 1970’s throughout the region.

We asked the Housing Executive to outline how many properties have been identified as having rising damp, asbestos and structural problems.  All of which would surely cause great concern to residents.


A total of 786 properties have had a rising damp problem addressed, which has so far cost £371,342.98.  The highest number of these properties is unsurprisingly in West Belfast, at 110, with the East Belfast District Office area next with 69 properties suffering from damp which has been treated.  These have an accumulated cost of £68,381.49 and £31,309.93 to address.

The Belfast Region far outstrips any other for the number of properties suffering with rising damp and the cost to address it.  A total of 507 properties have been identified with the problem, and the cost to repair these is £291,140.44.

The Northern Region has had 113 properties identified and the cost to repair these stands at £22,602.20, whilst the Southern Region has 166 properties with rising damp, and a repair cost so far of £57,600.34

Whilst these figures may seem low in light of the age of some properties, we can reveal a more shocking statistic.  BtP can now tell you that almost 70,000 of the 98,000 Housing Executive properties show some form of asbestos.


69,747 properties across the region have been identified by the Housing Executive as having some form of deadly asbestos in them.


70,000 out of 98,000 properties have been identified as having asbestos, that’s


of all NIHE properties

1,397 properties have been treated since 2011 at a cost of £297,863.21.  The highest number of properties where asbestos has been treated is Coleraine, with 198 properties treated at a cost of £33,224, followed by South Belfast with 175 properties treated at a cost of £33,420.73

Again the wider Belfast Region tops the poll in terms of properties treated, with 622 at a cost of £149,642.82, followed by the Southern Region with 393 properties treated at a cost of £77,657.24 and the Northern Region with 382 properties at a cost of £70,563.15.

The fibres of asbestos have caused thousands of deaths either from lung cancer, Mesothelioma or asbestosis.


In terms of structural problems in the form of subsidence, roof problems and problems with non-standard housing such as aluminium bungalows, these are strangely confined to the wider Belfast area.

Avonmore Park in Lisburn had 13 properties with twisted roofs, fixed in June 2011 at a cost of £47k.

3 houses in Rathglynn, Antrim face possible demolition due to structural problems, and 1 property in Fairview, Newtownabbey, Ardcarn Drive in Belfast, Garnerville Road in Belfast and Vernon Street in Belfast also have structural problems mainly with subsidence.

A number of properties in the Lurgantarry Estate suffer from ‘Concrete Cancer’ that has yet to be addressed, and 291 properties in Ballysillan have damp issues with work underway at a cost of £290,453.58.

If put in the context of the current reform of the Executive, one must think what kind of Housing Association or private enterprise would take on Housing Executive stock – 70,000 of which have asbestos in them?


The Housing Executive was set up in 1971, a major demand of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, responding to concerns that housing was being unfairly allocated by gerrymandered local authorities.

The Housing Executive’s Annual Report from 2015 outlines that there are 3,380 permanent staff working for the organisation. (Source pg 125)

A Voluntary Exit Scheme for civil servants was launched in April 2015, which included the Housing Executive.  The Executive, as part of the Stormont House Agreement, borrowed millions to facilitate redundancy packages.

As of May 2015, 190 staff had left the Housing Executive – within two months of the start of the Exit Scheme.  Another tranche of voluntary redundancies is due to come into effect before Summer 2016.  Applications closed on 29th February 2016 and our figures are exclusively up to date following that second tranche.  Those accepting any of the 220 places across some parts of the civil service will leave on 31st May.

Given the concerns that the Exit Scheme would leave the Housing Executive without sufficient staff to carry out its duties, and instead complement the agenda that would see the Executive close, BtP undertook to investigate.

In the central offices of the Housing Executive – i.e. its headquarters that deal with the corporate management of the organisation, 232 staff were offered a place on the voluntary exit scheme.  504 in total had applied, but the rest were not offered the opportunity to leave.

nihe central

This does not include any of the Housing Executive offices that are situated in each district, that you might visit to lodge a housing application.

We also got the information about staff in Regional Offices – your local offices.  Whilst conveniently the Executive did not name the specific offices as we had asked them to – such as the Waterloo Place office in Derry, or the Larne office, they did give us an indication of where the offices where when they gave us the breakdown of those who had applied and been offered voluntary redundancy.


Added to the central office redundancies, almost 700 (697) permanent members of staff have now already left or will soon be leaving the Housing Executive.  That is almost 21% of its total staff.  There are now 2,683 staff remaining only a year after the 2015 annual report.

The most concerning aspect of those people leaving the Executive is not the number, but the roles they previously held.


As is evident, staff at levels 4, 5 and 6 are those who are leaving the Executive in their droves.  What are those roles?

Level 4 – Housing Officer

Housing officers are the core staff of any Housing Executive office, they are those with responsibility for assessments and processing applications.

Level 5 – Senior Housing Officer

Senior Housing Officers are those who make allocations for housing.  They can also be in the form of Complex Needs Officers within District Offices that allocate housing points to those who have disabilities for example.

Level 6 – Assistant Housing Services Manager/Assistant Housing Manager

There is only normally one or two of these senior officers in each District Office.  As there is sixteen offices, and 32 level 6 redundancies – ALL of these posts are now redundant.

3D Bar Chart (descending) (statistics diagram recession)

Looking at the figures we have been given, the Housing Executive’s core function has been irreparable broken.

95 Housing Officers are no longer in the Housing Executive

44 Senior Housing Officers are gone and;

35 Assistant Housing Managers have now left.

What we are seeing here is the systematic dismantling of the Housing Executive regardless of public discontent.  For example, should tenants in homes that are being proposed for stock transfer to Housing Associations chose not to be transferred, that is one thing, but it is quite another to expect that the Housing Executive will be in a position to manage those properties – so in the medium term, the run-down of the Executive is handing public properties to the Housing Associations by stealth.

In January 2013 then-DSD Minister Nelson McCausland announced that plans would be put in place to ‘abolish’ the Housing Executive.  This would involve stripping the organisation of its landlord function, effectively removing it from the management, allocation and care of public properties across NI – some 89,000 homes. This could lead to huge stock transfers to the private sector.


Stock transfers have happened before – 55 properties in the Rinmore area of Derry were transferred to Apex in 2011, and 72 properties in the Bloomfield area of Bangor were transferred to Oaklee in 2014.  The Stock Transfer Programme instigated by the Executive plans to transfer 2,000 homes to Housing Associations.  In a separate FOI response, they told us;

“The proposed transfer of 2,000 properties is still at a very early stage and a housing association has yet to be appointed to work with us on taking forward the proposals”.

As we exposed in January, the Economic Advisory Group – which advises Ministers on economic matters – criticised the Voluntary Exit Scheme by saying:

“All voluntary redundancy schemes must take due consideration of the skills and service implication of potential staff losses for efficiency and risk. EAG is very concerned that the voluntary exit scheme that has been offered recently as key pillar in reform does not appear to do this”

You can read our exclusive story on that issue here.  In essence, the EAG is saying that voluntary redundancies are being offered to staff regardless of the impact it will have on the public service – which would appear to be helpful to the agenda of those who want to dismantle the Housing Executive.



Exclusive: Temp accommodation use exposed

Whilst we revealed that the Housing Executive spends £18.8m across the region on temporary accommodation, and the spend on some of these areas might seem spectacular, what is actually behind the figures is shocking.

As part of the original housing FOI, we asked for a breakdown of who was placed in each of these types of accommodation.

As part of this, the Housing Executive categorizes people into five groups:

  • Elderly – A household of one or more adults where at least one of the adults is 60 years of age or more
  • Single – A single individual
  • Small Adult – A household of two adults (aged between 16 and 59)
  • Large Adult – A household of three or more adults with one or less children
  • Small Families – A household of one or two adults with one or two children
  • Large Families – A household of one or two adults with three or more children OR a household of three or more adults with two or more children

The monthly figures we received are from Sept 2013 until Feb 2016.

Private single lets being used to temporarily house small families are the most prevalent – used by 1,312 families, followed by private single lets being used by single people, housing 1,034 people respectively.


AMENDMENT 19/5/16: The Housing Executive have been in contact regarding the above paragraph.  They state that families are placed in accommodation “in line with their accommodation needs” and that their definition of ‘private single lets’ are not one bedroom properties, but one property unit.  We are happy to make this amendment.

Non-standard refers to exceptional placements in B&B’s, Guesthouses, Hotels where access to general temporary accommodation is not immediately available – these have been used a total of 1,268 times to house all categories of people – the highest of which were single, followed by small families.


Elderly people – those aged 60 or over, had to be placed in temporary accommodation a staggering 233 times, 89 of those in single private lets and 69 in non-standard accommodation.  This has happened more times in January-February 2016 than in the whole of 2013.

These figures represent the number of times each of the respective category have been placed in that accommodation, not the number of individuals.




In total, these types of accommodation were used 17,126 times in the period April 2010-February 2016.  In terms of addressing the problem, only 471 social housing properties have been built in 2015/16 up to the 16th March 2016.

In total, the number of times people have been placed in temporary accommodation doubled from 2013 to 2014, and remained largely steady in 2015.  Figures for 2016 are only available for January and February, but already more elderly persons have been placed in temporary accommodation than in the whole year of 2013.

Exclusive: Housing Executive £19m bill for temp housing

In the last five years, the Housing Executive has paid £18.8 million to provide temporary, and in cases emergency accommodation for people across the region.

The shocking figures have been released to BtP in a detailed Freedom of Information response.  We asked the Housing Executive to outline:

“The cost, per district since 2011 of providing emergency accommodation including hotels, bed and breakfasts and other types of accommodation broken down by accommodation type, and the number of individuals including children that have been placed in these since 2011 broken down by month, as well as the number of times in total per month these types of accommodation have been used.”

In total, a whopping £18,823,275.42 has been paid out for temporary accommodation for those presenting as homeless, this does not necessarily mean that the applicants are without accommodation.

This includes properties such as private rented, bed and breakfasts, NIHE hostels, private hostels and hotels.  In 2008 NIHE introduced a Block Booking accommodation model which continues to be used.  Income for this Block Booked accommodation circa 350K per year has not been included in the figures we were given.

By far the highest amount paid out in NI has been to a 70-bed hostel in Belfast’s University Street – Queen’s Quarter – which has been paid an eye-watering £4.7m from 2011 – this is almost comparable to the entire cost of providing temporary accommodation by all Housing Executive offices in Belfast and Derry.  It only accepts referrals from NIHE Homeless Services Unit and Emergency Duty Team.

All this, despite the fact that according to the Minister for Social Development, only 316 people in the entire S Belfast constituency have been accepted by the Housing Executive as ‘homeless’.


Queen’s Quarter Housing, University Street Belfast

The highest individual NIHE area office spend is Lisburn, at £1.8 million, and the smallest from Cookstown, with a spend of just under £6,000 – though a health warning is attached to these – some offices such as that on the Shankill, have not provided full information and the Housing Executive stress that a new IT system introduced in 2013 is the cause – though other offices can provide full costs from April 2011 until Feb 2016.

The top ten spenders on temporary accommodation are listed below – note that massive difference between Queen’s Quarter – which is one establishment and not a Housing Executive office, and the rest.


The top ten area spends are outlined below.


We spent a number of days analysing the data and mapping these to major regions across NI.


As expected, all of the Belfast offices spend more together than any other area, followed closely by the three Derry offices at almost three million – bigger than all of the areas marked in red.

Lisburn on its own has a significant spend, followed, strangely, by Bangor and Newtownards in the North Down constituency which many would deem to be somewhat affluent in many places.

If we look at how these costs are to be addressed, the building of social housing should be a huge priority.  However, it has been revealed that from the 2010-11 period until the present day, there has been a relatively low number of housing units built right across NI – indeed it fell year-on-year from 2011 until 2013/14.


Perhaps this should be a huge priority for the incoming Assembly.

Tomorrow, we outline who is being placed in what accommodation, from elderly people to families. Tuesday at 7pm.

Keep up to date with us on or on twitter at @beyndtheplrs