Housing

Outrage after one-year-old baby hospitalised six times due to damp and mould-ridden rental home

Dareen Nuru has suffered respiratory problems due to overcrowding and damp and mould in a home medical professionals described as a 'disaster waiting to happen'. Her father Amin told the Big Issue the parallels with the death of Awaab Ishak are “scary” and “very dangerous”

Protestors storm Lambeth Council offices over damp and mould hospitalising baby

Police were called to break up the protest which lasted for two houses at Lambeth Council's headquarters. Image: Torla Evans

Housing campaigners occupied a London council’s offices to call for action after a one-year-old baby was hospitalised six times in a year due to damp and mould.

More than 60 protestors from Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) launched a sit-in protest at Lambeth Council’s offices on 12 January, holding banners calling for “no more overcrowding” and singing happy birthday to Dareen Nuru, who turns one this week.

Haneen and Dareen Nuru have suffered due to damp and mould
Much of baby Dareen’s (right) first year of life has been spent receiving hospital treatment due to the condition of the family’s home. Image: Supplied

The infant is living in mould-covered and overcrowded private rented accommodation in the London borough with the family of seven sharing the one-bedroom property.

The living situation has seen medical professionals link breathing difficulties that have hospitalised Dareen to the conditions in her family home and warn of a “disaster waiting to happen”.

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But the housing crisis and a severe shortage of social housing in the borough has meant the council have been unable to find another place for the family to live. Following last week’s protest, Lambeth Council said the family has been given greater priority access to find a new home and have promised a decision on their future within two weeks.

HASL’s Elizabeth Wyatt said: “Why is Lambeth Council failing to use their powers to take on slum landlords and protect some of our borough’s most vulnerable people?

“The council have also had numerous warnings from medical professionals about the hazardous and life-threatening conditions of the property, but seem to be ignoring these. The council’s own housing policy allows for urgent re-housing in emergency situations like this but the council is refusing to implement their own policy.

“What are the family supposed to do? They cannot simply wait for their baby daughter to be hospitalised again.”

The protest came just days after the government laid out measures to speed up repairs to horror homes as part of Awaab’s Law.

The government is proposing new legal requirements for social landlords to investigate hazards within 14 days, start fixing within a further seven days and make emergency repairs within 24 hours. Private landlords will not be subject to the same requirements.

Ministers acted after the death of Awaab Ishak – the two-year-old died from a respiratory condition caused by damp and mould of the Rochdale flat where he lived with his family.

Amin Nuru lives in a house covered in damp and mould
Dareen Nuru’s father Amin told the Big Issue he worries for his family’s health. Image: Supplied

Amin Nuru said the parallels between his family’s housing situation and the case of Rochdale toddler Ishak are “scary” and “very dangerous”.

The 42 year old told the Big Issue: “When she was born, after five days we had to go to the emergency room in hospital for nine days due to breathing problems and cold.

“After that she came back home but we have taken her to hospital six times up to now. Two weeks ago we took the twins to the GP and they said they may have asthma in the future.

“I’m really worried for their health but I think the protest has been helpful.”

damp and mould at London home
Medical professionals said the Nuru family home was a “disaster waiting to happen” due to the overcrowding and damp and mould. Image: Supplied

HASL accused Lambeth Council of failing to act following an environmental health inspection last summer on the mould and overcrowding at the property. The campaigners claimed the family are trapped in the property, where they have lived since 2017, and need the council’s help to move.

The damp and mould in the bedroom is so bad that Nuru said all seven of the family are forced to sleep in the sitting room.

Since then, twins Dareen and Haneen have suffered respiratory problems and developed eczema while seven-year–old Lujain has allergies linked to the damp condition of the flat.

damp and mould at London home
Damp and mould in the single bedroom at the property is so bad that the family of seven are forced to sleep in the sitting room. Image: Supplied

Dareen, who was born with a hole in her heart, has also been hospitalised on several occasions and medical professionals have linked the condition of the property to her health problems.

An NHS health visitor assessment in September, seen by the Big Issue, warned of “serious concerns” for the children living in the “small, confined space”.

The assessment also warned the lack of space is a fire hazard and a “disaster waiting to happen” and likely to “significantly impact on the development and well-being of the children”.

Meanwhile, a letter from the family’s GP warned in November that both twins had respiratory symptoms due to the mould in their property as well as developing eczema.

The GP added: “We are very concerned that this property is contributing to this child’s asthma/wheeze episodes, increasing the frequency of their attacks, which could lead to severe life-threatening attacks. Due to their ongoing exposure to environmental triggers in their home, we are concerned about the impact it will have on the babies’ lung health and, with a known heart defect for one twin, this could end them up in hospital.”

Protestors call for action over overcrowding and damp and mould
Some protestors held up placards quoting the damning assessment from medical professionals. Image: Torla Evans

Protestors brought banners bearing demands and featuring quotes from medical professionals in a bid to get the family priority access to a new home.

The sit-in protest lasted for two hours with police called to eventually break it up before the council agreed to take action.

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “We understand the distress caused by this family’s situation, and we have fully taken account of their medical and overcrowding issues in assessing their housing transfer application. They have therefore been allocated a higher priority band B, which applies to households with an urgent medical need. We have now agreed to review Mr Nuru’s application to ensure that the correct banding has been awarded.

Protestors call for action over overcrowding and damp and mould
Other families experiencing overcrowding joined the protest but Lambeth Council said a severe shortage of social housing means the local authority is powerless to help in some cases. Image: Torla Evans

“Lambeth’s medical team has also approved the family for level-access ground-floor properties, CAT3. This indicates that their present living conditions are affecting their health to a marked degree, and a move is recommended to improve their health. They will have additional priority for level access ground floor flats that are advertised.

“Lambeth does everything it can to find the most suitable homes available for families who come to us for help, but in the face of high demand and a severe shortage of social housing, this will often take some time. We are working hard to help find a new home for Mr Nuru and his family, but there are many applicants seeking family homes of this size and very few homes available.”

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