Doctor links five-year-old's asthma attacks to mouldy Gateshead council home

  • Bethany Walker explains how the issues with mould have affected her and her family

Bethany Walker is embarrassed to invite people into her home.

The council house she has lived in since 2020 is plagued with mould.

She told ITV Tyne Tees: "I've had it in the toy boxes, in the area where the baby swing is, the windows, everywhere. I apologise, I'm a bit embarrassed inviting people in."

Ms Walker's pictures show mould in her children's toy boxes, on windows and blinds and even coating her baby's changing table. Upstairs where the family sleeps. It's the same story.

Bethany Walker has said the problems with mould in the house have caused problems for the whole family. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"I had a blackout blind for the summer because these two can't sleep with any kind of light," she said. "I took it down at the beginning of winter and it was just thick with mould. I was like, no wonder my son's in hospital all the time."

The house is owned by a private landlord but let to Ms Walker by Gateshead Council.

Ms Walker says she's contacted the council by email and telephone hundreds of times asking for help to stop the mould or move her family.

Mould inside a toy box

"You can't get through to anyone or you get passed from one person to another," she said. "I've been in contact with so many people that's head of department for them to then leave or never hear from them again, so I just don't know what else I'm supposed to do."

Gateshead Council has carried out work to re-plaster the hallway and bedroom ceilings. Professional cleaners have also been sent to remove the mould around once a year but Ms Walker says it returned within weeks.

She discovered mould on the underside of the mattress in the cot where her baby sleeps. "It was on her crib mattress, I was fuming and I was just told to replace it. Carpets, blinds, toys, clothes, pushchairs, everything. In the last four years, I must have spent easily over twenty thousand replacing everything."

Living with the mould is taking a toll on the children's health. Her five-year-old son, Oliver, suffers from asthma. His doctor has written letters confirming a link between the mould and his symptoms,

Mould on the base of the baby's crib spread to the mattress where she slept

"It is quite obvious mould is a trigger for Oliver's symptoms," the letter read. "I would be very grateful if you could support their request for help with dealing with mould in the house as this is impacting on Oliver's asthma."

A Gateshead Council spokesperson told ITV Tyne Tees: "We are aware of the issues at the property, and are working with the tenant to resolve them as soon as possible."

Ms Walker is calling on the council to re-home her family. She said, "Ideally I'd like them to move us because this isn't suitable for anyone. I mean it's not normal for a child to have a cough all year around but all three of mine do."

Her story is part of a wider problem in social housing in the region.

The charity, Shelter, is calling for drastic action to deliver more and safer homes after it emerged the waiting list for a council house has spiralled dramatically in the North East.

Mould around the bedroom window

The number of people on the waiting list jumped from over 50,453 in 2022 to 75,985 in 2023, hitting its highest level since 2012.

That increase of almost 51% is far higher than anywhere else in England. The national average rise is only 6%.

Tracy Guy, strategic lead at Shelter North East, said people in the North East are, “trapped in homes with terrible conditions such as damp, mould, and disrepair”

Shelter says this is due to the cost of living crisis and high-interest rates.

Tracy Guy from Shelter North East. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"People can't afford to be staying in expensive private rented accommodation," Ms Guy explained. "Private rented accommodation in the North East and across the country has really soared, that's a combination of interest rates going up and landlords having to put rents up and we're not building enough social accommodation.

"We're building affordable housing but that's not social housing."

In response to Shelter's findings a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Last year was the highest on record for affordable housing delivery and since 2010 we have delivered over 696,100 new affordable homes across the country, including over 172,600 homes for social rent.

"We are committed to building more homes and we are on track to meet our manifesto commitment to build 1 million homes over this Parliament.

“In addition to boosting supply, our landmark Renters (Reform) Bill will deliver a fairer private rented sector, abolishing section 21 evictions and holding landlords who have failed to keep properties free of serious hazards, such as damp and mould, to account.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...