‘I don’t want my children to die’: Mother waiting four years to be rehoused told council had no health-related housing assessment in place

A single mum who has been waiting for four years for a transfer from her council house was told by her housing officer that the council did not have a health-related housing assessment in place.

Cheryl Mendez, 49, from Foss Avenue, Croydon, lives with her three children, Eloise Mendez, 11, Emmanuel Mendez, seven, and Isaachar Mendez, three. 

The two-bedroom property is riddled with mould and damp and has had a persistent smell of sewage since December, Ms Mendez said. 

The council carried out works on the property last year, but Ms Mendez said they only “painted over” the mould.

Ms Mendez said a pipe that runs through the house from the kitchen to the bedrooms is once again covered in mould after the council painted over it last year (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

The family all suffer from asthma – a condition known to be linked to damp and mould – and rely on inhalers to breathe. Isaachar is on a critical care plan after he stopped breathing on three occasions in November. This means he needs to be constantly monitored in case he loses consciousness or stops breathing. 

Ms Mendez said: “I don’t want my children to die at the hands of the council. This has affected their education, their well-being and ability to function as normal children.”

Ms Mendez has repeatedly requested for a transfer to a new home on medical grounds since May 2020. Her requests include letters from her children’s GPs who state the property is “totally inadequate” for the family’s “high level of needs” and is “very detrimental to their health”.

From left, the black mould on Ms Mendez’s kitchen floor before repairs in July, the covering that was put over the top of the mould by the council, Ms Mendez can lift the covering to see black mould still growing since she has been moved back into the property (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

In November 2023, Ms Medez received an email from a housing officer which said: “Although we have received the information we currently have no health-related housing assessment in place as this is being reviewed by management and we have no timescale of when this will be resulted.”

The housing officer said this was a “process in general” and did not only apply to Ms Mendes’ application.

Two months later, in January, a different housing officer told Ms Mendez that the council was “still awaiting a replacement” for the previous Housing Medical Assessor – who assists with applications for rehousing on health grounds.

Ms Mendez’s son had a severe allergic reaction to the mould in their home in 2017, that came out as a rash covering his head (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

The housing officer said: “Once managers have put this in place the health-related assessments on such cases can resume.”

A spokesman for Croydon council said health-related assessments are currently being completed but did not respond when asked if the service had been stopped during this period.

Ms Mendez was also told that the average waiting time for a three-bedroom property in Croydon is 11 to 13 years, and a four-bedroom property is “15 years plus”.

Ms Mendez said her daughter, Eloise, had puss in her eyes and couldn’t breathe properly in 2016 when they lived in their previous council property that was covered in mould (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

The mum-of-three said: “It means everybody in Croydon is waiting with nobody looking at their papers. Who is looking at emergency cases like mine? It feels like they don’t care.”

All three children have lived almost all of their lives in poor housing conditions in Croydon, said the mum.

In 2016 the council moved Ms Mendez and her daughter into a property that was covered from the inside out in mould, she said.

The council-owned high rise, riddled with black mould, that Ms Mendez and her daughter previously lived in in 2016 (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

A Croydon council spokesman said: “All housing applications, including health-related issues are assessed in line with the council’s housing allocation policy. 

“We are sorry that our resident has yet to receive their health-related housing assessment and we will ensure this is carried out as quickly as possible. 

“We carried out extensive works to the property last year, including a mould assessment. “In light of their concerns we will be getting in touch to carry out a further inspection and see if they need further support.”

Osama Bhutta, director of campaigns, policy and communications at Shelter, said: “Nobody’s home should put their health at risk. Families whose homes are known to be causing health problems should be given urgent priority for a move to a safe home. 

“Following the devastating death of Rochdale toddler, Awaab Ishak, it is vital social landlords take all tenants’ complaints of disrepair seriously and they are dealt with quickly and efficiently. 

“Tenants should pass any complaints that are not taken seriously to the Housing Ombudsman. “

Picture top: Back from left Eloise Mendez, Emmanuel Mendez and Cheryl Mendez, with Isaachar Mendez at the front (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

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