Mother fears mouldy flat in Somerset could make her toddler seriously ill

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A mother from Somerset fears that mould and damp in her flat could cause her toddler to become seriously ill.

Charlotte Tither lives in one room with her partner Dominic and child, McKenzie, as they believe the other areas in flat in Chard flat are uninhabitable due to mould.

Charlotte, who is a social worker, was forced to call an ambulance for her six-month-old earlier this week after he had trouble breathing.

When paramedics arrived, they found the flat was damp and advised Charlotte that the toddler should not be living in the property at all.

It follows on from a letter written shortly after McKenzie was born in July, where Charlotte's NHS midwife called for the family to be found alternative accommodation.

The family have had to abandon the bedroom in the flat, as they believe it had become too unhealthy to live in.

Black mould has forced the family to abandon their bedroom and move their furniture and clothes into the living room

Speaking about the room, Charlotte said: "The mould is all in the window, all over the floor and the minute you walk in, you can smell it and you can breathe it on your chest - it just sits on your chest, the minute you're in here.

"Over time, the mould's just grown and grown. [The housing provider] has told us to clean it, we've cleaned it. Give it two or three days and it just comes back."

The scale of the damp and mould has left Charlotte worried about her son catching pneumonia, meaning the family have moved his cot and their own bed into the living room, next to the kitchen appliances.

But when her son struggled for breath earlier this week, she felt forced to dial 999.

"I had two ambulances outside the front because he had a cold, he was chesty, couldn't breathe properly in the cot. And they come out [sic], checked him all over and said that he shouldn't even be in here, and they were quite worried about him," she said.

Mould has spread throughout the one-bedroom flat, and is visible on parts of the floor, walls, and ceiling

Charlotte believes her social housing provider, Stonewater, should have done more to make the property an adequate place to live.

"I just find it disgusting that they won't do anything about it and you constantly get in contact with them all the time, and they still won't give us a response or anything," she said.

NHS midwife: 'The mould is likely to lead to respiratory difficulties for the newborn'

According to the couple, the mould has been growing in the property for more than two years, with Stonewater doing little to address it, despite repeated calls for help.

In July 2022, a letter written by Charlotte's midwife stated that the flat was "unsuitable for her newborn baby due to mould growing on the walls".

The midwife added: "The mould is likely to impact on her newborn baby's health and well-being leading to respiratory difficulties. I believe it is imperative that alternative suitable accommodation is sought."

Yet, the couple claim there has been little change to their living situation.

The family have now moved their clothes and property into the living room, which joins onto their kitchen

It is also not the first time someone has felt Stonewater failed to adequately maintain their property.

Charlotte got in touch with ITV West Country after watching a report about Lisa Cornwall, a woman in Bridgwater who was also having problems with the same provider. In her case, she said she had been living with two holes in her ceiling for the last year.

Another person living in a property managed by Stonewater is Phil White in Amesbury.

He told ITV West Country that he believed his five-year-old daughter's asthma has deteriorated as a direct result of the living conditions in the two-bed flat.

Since ITV West Country contacted Stonewater about Charlotte's flat and the health of her toddler, the company has moved the family into temporary accommodation, where they have been told they can stay for two weeks.

But it has denied that it received reports of damp and mould in the property before December 2022. The company also said it had never seen the letter written by Charlotte's midwife.

In a statement, David Lockerman, the company's director of housing operations, said: "We're deeply concerned by this issue and immediately moved the family into temporary accommodation last night (Thursday 9 February), while we carry out a full inspection today and take whatever action is necessary.

"We'll continue to support the family with advice on ventilation to help prevent the issue recurring in future."