Health fears for baby in ‘mouldy’ council flat in Lindsey Avenue, York

York Press: Charlene Farah-Price with her baby son,Thomas, at her flat in Lindsey Avenue Charlene Farah-Price with her baby son,Thomas, at her flat in Lindsey Avenue

A MOTHER of two has told how she had to rush her 11-week-old son to hospital with a respiratory infection which, she claims, has been caused by damp at her council home.

Charlene Farah-Price, of Lindsey Avenue, York, said she was afraid prolonged exposure to mould at her one-bedroom flat could lead to further serious problems.

Charlene, 20, said: “Thomas spent 11 weeks at the flat before being rushed by ambulance to York Hospital. He started getting a really bad chest and cough and stopped feeding. He was really drowsy and I knew something was wrong.

“I was trying to feed him on the sofa and he went blue in the face and couldn’t breathe. His nose and throat were bunged up.

“He was really struggling to breathe. I was panicking, phoned 999 and went to the hospital with the lights on.”

The Press has previously reported how Kia Stone’s 11-month-old baby, Telan Carlton, died in October 2012 of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which Kia believes was contributed to by the conditions of the one-bedroom flat in Chapelfields where her family of four was living.

City of York Council said it advised the family on how to reduce condensation, and said there was no evidence to suggest the damp and conditions in the property were an influencing factor in Telan’s death.

Telan’s death led to The Press launching it’s Stamp Out Poverty campaign. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) showed living costs have risen by 25 per cent in five years, with a quarter of UK households falling short of the income required to meet minimum living standards.

A report has claimed 4,575 York children – 13 per cent – live in poverty.

Charlene said doctors at the hospital diagnosed Thomas with bronchitis, which they said could have been caused or exacerbated by the mould at the property.

She said: “The hospital said Thomas has a respiratory infection and the mould has caused it, it’s likely to be from the mould.

“The council came out today and took some photos and had a look around the flat and said it’s safe to live in.

“Obviously it’s not for my son; he’s in the hospital. He practically said he wouldn’t bring a newborn baby home to it." 

She said she had nowhere else to stay, saying: "I can’t stay with my family as they don’t have any room. I have no other choice but to stay in the flat.”

Thomas is almost 12 weeks old, and little brother to three-year-old Travis, both of whom are now living back at the flat with Charlene. Thomas’ father Chris does not live at the flat and Charlene said she was seeking a move to a larger council flat, so Chris could move in too.

Charlene said: “I’m angry and upset and it’s making me depressed. I have already lost a child, a little girl four years ago, and I’m really worried about something happening again to my other children.

“My ultimate aim is to move out of the flat because it’s too small and not safe for the children, and get into a bigger place with Chris and the kids, then get back into work.

“As soon as Thomas is six months old I will start looking for a job and get him into child care.”

A City of York Council spokeswoman said there were currently about 2,400 people on the waiting list for council properties, and the authority had attempted to work with Charlene to tackle the problem.

Tom Brittain, head of housing at the council, said: “We made an inspection visit to the property in August when we gave the tenant advice on how to minimise and clean away condensation which is the cause of this mould.

“We share this advice with all tenants at regular intervals and it is always available at york.gov.uk “Since that inspection, we have visited the flat four times, got no answer and left calling cards to arrange alternative dates to redecorate with anti-fungicidal paint. This too will need to be kept clear of condensation.

“We’ve since gained access to monitor the mould and are now trying again to make arrangements to carry out the work as quickly as possible.”

About 500 council properties come available each year, but with a waiting list of about 2,400, many face a long wait. To help reduce this wait, the council last year pledged to bring houses which have been empty for a long time back into use.

The council has also pledged to take more action to tackle the stigma around poverty.

In July it approved a ground-breaking anti-poverty strategy compiled by the York Poverty Action Group, which includes The Press, the JRF, the church, NHS, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, South Yorkshire Credit Union and the York Economic Partnership.

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