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Mum, 18, living in mould

Jun 01, 2023Jun 01, 2023

'I shouldn't have to worry that my daughter is going to die... I just want her to have normality'

An 18-year-old mother has voiced desperation over her damp-ridden flat after her daughter was hospitalised four times with severe asthma. Aimee James and her 20-month-old are sleeping on a sofa in their living room because the two bedrooms are infested with damp and mould.

The single mother, of Bridgend, is pleading for urgent action from the Valleys to Coast (V2C) housing association. She said: "I'm suffering really badly with my mental health. I'm 18 years old — I shouldn't have to be dealing with this. I just want a happy life with my daughter. I shouldn't have to worry that my daughter is going to die."

Aimee and her daughter, whom she did not want to be named, moved into the flat around eight months ago. The mum says she first noticed damp in the home around two months ago and it has quickly ruined many pieces of furniture, clothing, bedding and toys. Aimee has almost no funds left after utilities are paid each month and cannot afford to replace the items.

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She says the recent case of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould, has left her fearing for her own daughter's life. The toddler has struggled with severe asthma since her birth but Aimee fears it has worsened since the damp appeared. Since then the child has been admitted to the Princess of Wales Hospital four times.

"Any little thing affects her chest and she can't cope," said Aimee. "She panics because they put an oxygen mask over her face when her levels are low. She has also had a tube in her nose."

Their GP has written a letter to the housing association expressing concern that there is a "significant damp problem", that the child is "coughing a lot" and that she has developed "very itchy skin". The letter asks that V2C consider moving the mum and daughter to a "more appropriate" home.

Aimee, who also has asthma, initially complained about the damp to Bridgend Council, which advised her to contact the landlord V2C. The housing association, which manages more than 6,000 homes in Bridgend, said it first recorded a mould complaint on November 11 and scheduled an inspection for December 2, after which it would carry out any necessary work.

The mum said: "When we first moved into the flat, I noticed the rubber seal on the windows had come off. They let in a breeze even when they're shut, but you also can't open most of them. The floors were cemented and there was no carpet on them. I couldn't afford a bedroom carpet so I covered the floor with rugs.

"After a few months I moved the bedroom drawers and noticed there was a green mould underneath. I started moving furniture and noticed there was more mould. It was black on certain things. Since then it's just got worse."

When they first moved into the empty flat, Aimee had to buy furniture herself and rely on gifts from family and friends. But mould soon ruined many of their new possessions including a £240 bed, £170 stroller, £170 play kitchen, two £50 mattresses and two £30 duvet sets, as well as many of their clothes and the child's teddy bears

"We can't go out and buy new furniture," said Aimee. "I'm on a £55-a-week hairdressing apprenticeship and getting about £240 a month in government benefits. There's hardly any money left after the gas and electric and rent.

"For the last three weeks we've been sleeping cwtched up on the sofa because the damp hasn't affected the living room that I know of. But the dodgy windows let in a breeze and we can't afford heating. Other parents I know have got their child in a routine where they go to bed in their bedroom and mummy's bedroom is next door. She hasn't been able to have any of that. She doesn't properly know what a bedroom is.

"She is a happy kid and barely ever cries unless she's seriously unwell. When I say she can't go in her bedroom she doesn't scream, she just plays with the few toys she's got in the living room.

"I just want my daughter to have normality. My GP told me, 'I don't advise anyone with asthma to stay there.' I saw the stories about the two-year-old boy who died, and my little girl is not even two yet."

Aimee believes V2C should put her and her daughter in temporary accommodation until the flat is safe. A spokeswoman for the housing association told WalesOnline on December 1: "We received a report from Miss James regarding mould in her flat on November 11, and as per our usual procedures a survey was booked. This is taking place on Friday, December 2, following which we’ll take any remedial actions required. We remain in contact with Miss James and have advised her regarding the separate issue of her application for transfer."

And a council spokesman said: “The householder has contacted the council regarding a complaint of mould within her flat, and we have advised her to speak to V2C as her registered social landlord. Following this, if she still feels that the matter has not been resolved, we will make a referral to the Shared Regulatory Service and will ask environmental health officers to look into the issue.”

V2C, a not-for-profit organisation, has previously been accused of allowing Bridgend residents to live in homes with damp, mould, rats, and maggots, as we reported last year. You can read more of the latest news from Bridgend here.

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