Family of seven living in one-bedroom flat 'like a prison cell'

A family of seven who are living in a one-bedroom flat in Cardiff have told ITV News they feel like they are 'living in a prison".

Sarah Wheddon has been living with her one child, her partner and four stepchildren in the flat since March.

She said the flat, which is privately rented, is all the couple can afford. Sarah added they have been on the council waiting list for a more suitable property for the last six months.

Sarah's children sleep on the sofa, floor and on the footstool in the living room

"It feels like prison. It's a concrete cell - that's what I call it.

"We are living in poverty. There's a shared yard but it is in no fit state for children."

Sarah's partner is currently in employment and she has had to stop working due to childcare and health issues.

She said the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation with the children being off school, and having nowhere to work.

"During lockdown the biggest issue was trying to get schoolwork done because there's no table - it is all on their laps or on the floor."

It comes after a report by Shelter Cymru shows more than 60,000 children in Wales live in homes with no outdoor space, and roughly 30,000 live in homes where their parents or guardians have had to choose between paying for food and paying housing costs. 

The Welsh Government said social housing remains a "top priority" and it has made a "record investment of £2bn" in affordable housing during this Senedd term.

Sarah said "a lot of sacrifices" have been made and the pair often go without a proper meal.

"We feed the kids and we'll have some toast because there's not enough food in the house

"It's been really difficult and in my eyes, it doesn't matter about me - my kids are my focus. If my kids are fed and clothed, that's all that matters".

Sarah said there is no suitable outside space for the children either

With the children being different ages, Sarah said they try and stagger their bedtimes between 7pm and 10pm, but often they don't get enough sleep.

Sarah said she is worried about their development and they are struggling to stay awake in school.

She claims the council has "done nothing" to help them improve their current living situation.

"It saddens me. It really does. The council should be taking into consideration people who are living in poverty - I consider myself living in poverty. We can’t afford a private rent, we can’t afford to get a mortgage and buy a house. We’re asking for help - we’ve been asking for help for the last four months, and the council has done nothing. "

A council spokesperson said demand for good quality and affordable accommodation in the city is "high" with almost 8,000 applicants on the waiting list.

“We recognise the problems caused by overcrowding in the city and offer a higher priority on the common waiting list for overcrowded families. Unfortunately availability of larger family homes is limited and where a person wants to live in the city may affect how quickly they receive an offer of a larger property.

“To address demand and increase the amount of affordable housing available including larger family properties, the Council has an ambitious housing development programme to deliver 2,000 new council homes, 1,000 of which will be completed by 2022.

“We are currently reviewing the help available to overcrowded families and are developing a range of measures to increase the supply of larger properties, for example improving the incentives for tenants who want to downsize and free up their properties for larger families.”