Three-year-old rushed to hospital with breathing problems due to ‘damp and mould’ in Middleton home

Date published: 27 December 2023

A mother in Middleton believes that damp and mould in her home is the cause of health issues which have hospitalised her three-year-old boy seven times.

Amy Smith, 29, lives in a Riverside housing group property on Ennerdale Road with her three children, aged two, three, and seven.

Louie Bowie, aged three, was taken to North Manchester General Hospital at 3am on 18 December 18 and was discharged two days later. It is the second time he has been admitted in the past month, and the seventh time in total, the first incident occurring when he was just eight months old.

Ms Smith moved into the home in 2018, before Louie was born, where she claims she has been struggling to keep her children safe from mould despite raising the issue numerous times with the housing association. She claims the issue is so bad that it started sticking to the children’s clothes which she has had to throw away and replace.

The family is currently staying in a temporary city centre apartment after repeated hotel stays. She said she was moved out of her home on 22 November for a week and half due to the issue, and ended up in a hotel again until 11 December when the housing association claimed repairs had been completed.

According to the Greater Manchester Tenants Union, workmen were still in the property completing jobs when the family returned, including “painting over black mould” on the walls.



Mould in the house (left), and on clothes (right): Amy Smith claims she has had to throw out her children's clothes due to mould sticking to them in their Riverside housing association property
Mould in the house (left), and on clothes (right): Amy Smith claims she has had to throw out her children's clothes due to mould sticking to them in their Riverside housing association property

Riverside stated that it was initially satisfied with the condition of the repairs, but after re-inspecting the property it highlighted “the need for some additional work” which it has actioned.

Ms Smith said: “I don’t know how I get up in the morning with everything going on. This time he was unresponsive and his eyes were half open, I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

A blood sample taken from Louie has shown that he is suffering from an allergic reaction to something, although the reading for mould was not high. However, sources have told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that mould does cause an increased risk of respiratory infections without the need for being allergic.

Daniel Isaac, a community organiser in Middleton and Harpurhey for the Greater Manchester Tenants Union (GMTU), said he attended a meeting with Riverside about the situation in the week before Christmas.

Mr Isaac said that more people are coming forward from the same estate with complaints about damp and mould in their homes. He said there could be hundreds of people impacted by the problem.

He told the LDRS that after the family moved back to their home on 11 December and saw there were still issues, they were “left out in the cold” but had “no choice but to go back to the accommodation” due to having nowhere else to stay.

Ms Smith said she isn’t confident that Riverside can fix the problems in the home, and that Christmas this year has been “totally ruined”, being spent in an unfamiliar apartment which is “nowhere near family.”

The Riverside Group claims it is “deeply concerned” about the health problems that the family is experiencing, and that it has completed “extensive” works to tackle the issue in the property.

Speaking last week, Ian Gregg, executive director of asset services at Riverside, said: “We are deeply concerned to hear that Ms Smith’s son has fallen unwell and want to wish him a speedy return to good health so that he can return home as soon as possible.

“We completed extensive damp remedial works at Ms Smith’s home last week and were initially satisfied these addressed the concerns raised.

“However, in learning of her son’s ill health and subsequent reports of ongoing damp within her flat, we arranged a further urgent inspection. The inspection has highlighted the need for some additional work to be undertaken which we have actioned. We will also be installing a Switchee device so we can monitor damp levels in the property in real-time.

“In the meantime, we are making arrangements to support the family into temporary accommodation while we complete all of the works required. We fully appreciate Ms Smith’s continued concern during this difficult time and remain committed to working with her to ensure her family’s return home.”

The housing association added that it had initially been made aware of Ms Smith’s concerns regarding mould earlier in the year and has worked with Rochdale Borough Council’s Housing Standards Team to gain access to undertake a thorough investigation of the home.

The latest trip to hospital for Ms Smith and her son Louie happened in the same week of the third anniversary of the death of Awaab Ishak, who died in December 2020 due to a respiratory condition linked to damp and mould in his Rochdale Boroughwide Housing home on the Freehold estate.

A vigil was held for Awaab on the Lviv bridge in Rochdale town centre on Thursday 21 December, attended by Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of the council, and organised by the GMTU.

<p class='newslink'><span class='readmore'>Read more:</span> <a target='blank' href='/news-features/2/news-headlines/154579/awaab-ishak-is-remembered-at-a-vigil-three-years-after-his-death'><span class='newstitle'>Awaab Ishak is remembered at a vigil three years after his death</span><span class='dateonline'>Published: 22 December 2023</span></a></p>

Speaking about Ms Smith’s situation in Middleton, Councillor Emmott said: “These housing associations need to be vigilant. One of the problems is that sometimes things like that tend to be overlooked.

“Generally Riverside are not too bad compared to other housing associations, but they need to concentrate on their present stock – that’s all housing associations – rather than trying to branch out and become developers.

“Our thoughts go to the family in Middleton, I’m told he’s okay now which is a relief, but these things should never happen, housing associations cannot allow this to happen.

“It seems particularly children are most affected by it; these are people's lives and that’s more important than anything else.”

Declan Carey, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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