Michael Gove discusses death of toddler Awaab Ishak
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A four-year-old boy has been left struggling to breathe and riddled with sores due to the “mouldy and damp” conditions in his home. Blood tests have confirmed asthmatic Kyden, from Milton Keynes, is suffering from allergic reactions to black mould. His mum Demi says she watches over him as he sleeps, “terrified” he could die.
Single mum, Demi Rock, said his asthma has been worsened by the black mould, which covers his family flat, and how his body is also covered in painful eczema, which doctors say is caused by his poor living conditions.
Despite Demi, 30, pleading with the council to rehome her from her Grand Union housing association flat, she’s so far had no luck.
She said: “I’m at my wits’ end and don’t know what to do. I am terrified he will die. There’s already been a young child that’s died through living in damp and mouldy conditions. What if my son is next?”
It comes after the story of two-year-old Awaab Ishak who was killed in 2020 by mould which riddled his social housing flat, causing respiratory failure.
Following the inquest into Awaab’s death last November, Housing Secretary Michael Gove underlined the need to ensure every landlord provides decent accommodation for tenants.
But Demi, who lives with chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, says she has battled the mould problem in her two-bed flat which she shares with her nine-year-old daughter and Kyden since 2019.
She has lost count of the number of times Kyden, who also has autism and is non-verbal, has been admitted to hospital struggling to breathe.
Symptoms of his allergic reactions to the mould include itching skin, swollen eyes and irritability, all of which are disrupting his sleep.
Demi, a stay-at-home mum, said: “I’m having to take him to hospital about once a month because he struggles to breathe. You wouldn’t give someone with a peanut allergy a peanut butter sandwich so how is it acceptable to leave him in this house?”
She claims Grand Union says there is “no mould” whenever they come to inspect the flat.
“That’s because I’ve spent hours constantly scrubbing it away,” she said. “I can’t risk Kyden breathing it in.”
She has a 12-litre dehumidifier which she says fills up hourly, and places three moisture remover pots in each room which can last up to six weeks, but she says fill up in nine days.
She uses bleach and black mould remover on the walls, has her extractor fan on constantly, ventilates the property daily and keeps her heating on as much as she can – although two of her radiators currently don’t work.
“Our mattresses are soaked, my furniture gets covered in mould,” she said. “I wash the children’s clothes and put them away, all clean and tumble-dried. Then when I get them out to dress them they are horrible and damp.”
Due to the mould in the 11-year-old building she has had to replace the children’s beds four times in four years. She has replaced her bed twice, had two sofas and three different dining tables after they all became compromised with mould.
She said: “I don’t know when the next asthma attack is going to happen or how severe it will be. They have failed my son completely by leaving him here.
“If he dies that’s my baby. You can replace plaster boards and radiators- you cannot replace my son.”
Demi has requested to be moved into council accommodation, but nothing has become available yet.
According to Grand Union a ventilation system has since been installed in the property, but Demi said this isn’t the case.
Grand Union issued a lengthy statement, which read: “Our technical team has visited Mrs Rock each time she has reported a recurrence of damp in her home and we have installed additional ventilation, on the advice of a specialist ventilation company, and provided guidance on how to manage moisture.”
It continued: “At our most recent inspection in January, we found some additional damp resulting from a leak from one of her toilets; this has been fixed but will need to dry out.
“We want to be open and transparent about the decisions that we make and particularly the condition of her home and so are currently working with her solicitor to arrange for an independent survey of her home to take place.
“We will act on the findings of this and will continue to do everything that we can do to ensure she has a safe, secure and well-maintained home and support her to get the move she so desperately wants.”
A council spokesperson added: “The council is willing to step in and help housing association tenants in situations like these, but they should first raise their complaint through the Housing Ombudsman. After this, we can take necessary action if the issue is still not addressed.
“We’re working on the request for council housing separately, and will allocate a suitable property as soon as it becomes available.”
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