Wed. Apr 17th, 2024
alert-–-‘i’m-scared-my-baby-will-die’:-family-of-eight-stuck-in-a-mouldy-two-bed-so-cramped-it’s-‘like-living-in-a-shed’Alert – ‘I’m scared my baby will die’: Family-of-eight stuck in a mouldy two-bed so cramped it’s ‘like living in a shed’

A family-of-eight have said say they ‘do not feel safe’ inside their damp and mouldy two-bedroom home that is run by the same housing association at fault for the tragic death of Awaab Ishak. 

Matthew Brooks and his partner Paige Deloughrey, who live in social housing in Rochdale with their six children all under the age of 10, likened their cramped home as being ‘like living in a shed’.

They fear it is damaging their health after their youngest daughter was hospitalised for respiratory issues thought to be related to their living conditions for the eighth time.

Mr Brooks, 30, said Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) could put his family in a five-bed mansion but it ‘wouldn’t take away what they’ve done to us’ and his baby who he ‘was scared we could lose’ after their latest trip to the hospital.

The couple have complained to their landlord, who are the same housing association at the centre of Ishak’s death after the two-year-old died from ‘chronic exposure’ to mould at his family’s rented flat.

Paige Deloughrey, who lives in social housing in Rochdale, pictured with her six children

Paige Deloughrey, who lives in social housing in Rochdale, pictured with her six children

A look at the mouldy conditions inside the family-of-eight's house

A look at the mouldy conditions inside the family-of-eight’s house

The Rochdale family have revealed they 'do not feel safe' inside their cramped, mouldy home

The Rochdale family have revealed they ‘do not feel safe’ inside their cramped, mouldy home

Matthew Brooks and his partner Paige Deloughrey holding Ellen-Rose Brooks, aged eight months old, who has been in and out of hospital numerous times

Matthew Brooks and his partner Paige Deloughrey holding Ellen-Rose Brooks, aged eight months old, who has been in and out of hospital numerous times

Mr Brooks said he first became aware of damp and mould problems when he moved into the property two years ago, but there were ‘existing issues’ dating back to Ms Deloughrey’s time at the property. 

After complaining to RBH ‘over and over’, nothing came of it until he threatened to take legal action. 

Matters came to a head at the end of January when they spotted more damp and mould creeping up their walls.

Awaab Ishak tragically died from a respiratory condition in December 2020, just over a week after his second birthday

Awaab Ishak tragically died from a respiratory condition in December 2020, just over a week after his second birthday

Prior to that, the damp had taken hold in one of their bedrooms and their kitchen, leaving some walls and floorboards ‘sodden’, according to Mr Brooks, and it ‘was running up the hallway and stairs causing the plaster to fall off’.

He says RBH initially offered £280 compensation, with £150 of the money to cover a damaged wooden wardrobe, but he refused to accept.

He is pleased RBH have carried out some works, which required his family moving into a Travelodge for two weeks, but believes they are ‘cosmetic’ and, in some cases, they have literally painted over the problem.

‘They washed all the mould off the walls and fitted new vents to help with the ventilation,’ he said.

‘But in some areas they have painted over the wall paper without checking damp isn’t behind in the walls.

‘I’m no builder, but even I know they should have used a dehumidifier inside the house before even starting any work.’

Mr Brooks admits that he and his family no longer feel ‘safe’ in their home, telling Manchester Evening News: ‘The air is heavy in the home (due to the high humidity caused by damp). We felt we couldn’t breathe the air around us.

‘I don’t feel safe in my own home. The house is on its back, it’s like a shed. There are works, and works, and more works being done. 

‘They could put us in a five-bed mansion but that wouldn’t take away what they’ve done to us – it’s about my baby’s health at the end of the day. This time, on this hospital trip, I was scared [we could lose her].’ 

This shows the children's bedroom with two double bunk beds in a tiny room blocking the window

This shows the children’s bedroom with two double bunk beds in a tiny room blocking the window

A look at the damp and 'sodden' walls after damp started to take hold in some of the rooms

A look at the damp and ‘sodden’ walls after damp started to take hold in some of the rooms

The family fear the housing condition is damaging their health, especially their youngest daughter who has been hospitalised for respiratory issues thought to be related to their living conditions

The family fear the housing condition is damaging their health, especially their youngest daughter who has been hospitalised for respiratory issues thought to be related to their living conditions

The couple were offered £280 compensation, with £150 of the money to cover a damaged wooden wardrobe, for the dampness but they refused to accept and demanded fixes be made

The couple were offered £280 compensation, with £150 of the money to cover a damaged wooden wardrobe, for the dampness but they refused to accept and demanded fixes be made

Although he acknowledges the house is now more habitable, he fears the damp and mould will will only get worse over time.

‘Most of the works they’ve carried out are cosmetic. They are not solving the problems and just covering them up – it’s like if it’s out of sight it’s out of mind.

‘I have asked for more clarification about where all the damp spots are. But I was told that was private information.’

To add to their concerns, the cramped rooms in the home have wardrobes and bunk beds blocking access to windows.

READ MORE: Nearly 6,000 complaints about damp and mould were made to ombudsman following death of Awaab Ishak

Their eldest child Adam, nine, shares with John, eight, Aoife and Talliah, five, in one bedroom with toddler Tom, two, and seven-month-old baby Ellen-Rose sharing the couple’s bedroom.

Mr Brooks says he and Paige have both seen their mental health suffer and he has frequent poor sleep which leaves him ‘exhausted’ for his job as a kitchen fitter.

A letter from a health visitor states Ellen-Rose’s respiratory problems are ‘felt to be a result of the home conditions’ which are having a ‘negative’ impact on her health.

In December 2020, two-year-old Ishak’s death put the issue of social housing into the spotlight and RBH was slammed for its role in the toddler’s death. 

At an inquest, RBH tried to blame Awaab’s family’s lifestyle habits, but a coroner found his respiratory condition was caused by ‘chronic exposure’ to mould after his father repeatedly raised concerns but no action being taken.

An investigation by the Housing Ombudsman found the housing association had been ‘dismissive’ and ‘unsympathetic’ with residents and it led to the sacking of its boss Gareth Swarbrick.

It was subsequently stripped of £1m in funds for new housing by the government, with Housing Secretary Michael Gove saying it had ‘failed its tenants’. 

A look at the conditions inside the house of Awaab Ishak, who suffered prolonged exposure to mould

A look at the conditions inside the house of Awaab Ishak, who suffered prolonged exposure to mould

A coroner found that Ishak's respiratory condition was caused by 'chronic exposure' to mould after his father repeatedly raised concerns but no action being taken

A coroner found that Ishak’s respiratory condition was caused by ‘chronic exposure’ to mould after his father repeatedly raised concerns but no action being taken

He said in January, that Awaab’s ‘entirely preventable’ death had shocked the nation and Awaab’s Law, which was introduced in last year’s Social Housing Regulation Act 2023, would set out new requirements for landlords to fix reported health hazards within specified time frames.

Mr Brook and Ms Deloughrey say they are desperate for a bigger home, but the waiting list is long with RBH claiming that 550 families are registered with the council for a four-bedroom home.

In response to the family’s concerns, Siobhan McCoy, RBH Director of Property Services, said: ‘We are sorry about the challenges the family are facing with their home and have taken action to address these issues and to support them in finding a more suitable property that fits with the size of their family.

‘It is incredibly important to us that people feel safe in their homes, and we’ve made significant changes to how we deal with cases of damp and mould.’

‘We know that the family needs to move into a larger home and we are providing advice and support to them about their options for this. Regrettably, there is a shortage of large family homes available in the borough.’