Girl, 4, hospitalised as mum pleads council to be moved out of damp and mouldy Birmingham flat

Birmingham housing campaigners say hundreds of children in the city are living in houses and flats riddled with mould Credit: BPM Media

A mum-of-two is pleading with Birmingham City Council to move her young family out of their damp and mould-ridden flat - after her four-year-old daughter was hospitalised twice with breathing problems.

Her son also suffers with severe eczema which requires a special lotion to be applied 20 times a day.

It comes as medical professionals believe both the children's conditions are made worse by living in a property with damp and mould.

Birmingham City Council has told the family that their seventh floor tower block flat is all it has to offer.

It has sent repair workers to the property twice in three years to carry out temporary fixes and redecoration - most recently, last month in October.

Repair workers were sent by Birmingham City Council just last month to fix and redecorate the property. Credit: BPM Media

The mum, who was moved to Birmingham to flee domestic abuse, is now being backed by the Birmingham Campaign for Fair Housing. She has received support from housing charity Shelter.

It follows the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died from a respiratory condition caused by mould in a one-bedroom housing association flat in Rochdale.

Birmingham housing campaigners say hundreds of children in the city are living in houses and flats riddled with mould, similar to that seen in Awaab Ishak's home.

The mum described how, when the family stayed away for two weeks to visit family, their symptoms eased immediately. Repair workers spent several days carrying out repairs and painting the flat in October. But soon after workers left, black spots and damp patches re-emerged.

"The same happened before," the mum said before adding: "The walls are damp underneath, so putting new wallpaper and paint does nothing.

"The wet comes back through. I keep cleaning but it just keeps appearing."She added: "I want the council to listen to the medical experts, if not me."

Credit: BPM Media

A paediatric clinical nurse specialist, dermatology expert and her children's nursery manager all urged action.

In the most recent letter of support, dated October, a clinical nurse specialist working with a consultant treating the boy's chronic atopic eczema, described the flat: "All the rooms are damp...they all share a double bed...there is mould on the walls and 'silverfish' in all the rooms including the nappy cupboard".

There is "nowhere safe for the children to play or get fresh air."

"I would be grateful if someone could re-look at the housing situation all of these combined things are not helping in getting the eczema under control or improving his quality of life," she wrote.

The mum's son suffers with severe eczema which requires a special lotion to be applied 20 times a day. Credit: BPM Media

A second letter from a dermatology nurse specialist, dated August 2021, illustrates how long the problem has lasted. The family GP has also raised concerns.

The mum currently training to be a hairdresser as she seeks to make a better life, said the condition of the flat was depressing for her and the children.

"My life is horrible right now," she said. "I sometimes feel there is no point to it, if I did not have the kiddies I don’t think I would carry on.

"The council advise me to keep all the windows open all the time but that is really hard when it is so cold and we have so little money.

"We are very high up and my son's behaviour issues mean it's a worry - he has tried to climb out before. Everyone backs our case. The temporary repairs are pointless. But the council say there is nowhere else."

The Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, Preet Kaur Gill, has recently written to council chief executive Deborah Cadman pressing for urgent action on the council's poorly insulated housing stock.

She said complaints about 'recurring damp' was one of the largest causes of calls for help from her constituents, with 160 current cases under review.

Yet often the council's response was to tell people to better ventilate their homes, she said.

While this solution was sometimes partially true, it would continue to recur until homes were properly retrofitted to improve insulation and warmth, said the MP.

Campaigners say the city's housing situation is at crisis point while the Housing Ombudsman is also currently investigating the council after finding multiple concerns about its handling of complaints.

Credit: PA Images

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has also written to councils warning them to "raise the bar dramatically" on the quality of social housing.

In a statement to the House of Commons last week Mr Gove said Awaab's death makes it "painfully clear why we must do everything we can to better protect tenants".

He continued: "Our Social Housing Regulation Bill will bring in a rigorous new regime that holds landlords like these to account for the decency of their homes.

"The system has been too reliant on people fighting their own corner and we are determined to change that.

"So, the reforms that we're making will help to relieve the burden on tenants with an emboldened and more powerful regulator."

He said his department would "name and shame" landlords who had breached consumer standards.

Birmingham City Council has issued a general statement on the issue of mould and damp and said it "inspects properties for mould as part of its focus on carrying out increased numbers of home visits and is actively working with our tenants to prevent it."

This included "producing a housing toolkit which includes advice on treating mould and a leaflet which we will be distributing to all vulnerable tenants."