I feared for my newborn baby’s life every time I opened the door to my home

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The Liverpool mum took on a tenancy with Riverside Housing and was fearful about the effects ongoing damp and mould issues would have on her son.

A mum feared for her newborn baby’s life every time she walked in her ‘damp and mould’ infested home.

Natalie Parr moved into her home on Shelley Street in Bootle in 2019 after succeeding the tenancy from her uncle who sadly died from lung cancer. It was a different area from where she grew up in Liverpool 8 and meant moving away from her support network. However Natalie said accepting Riverside Housing’s offer was a chance to ‘keep the house in the family’ and meant they could settle down and make a fresh start.

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However, things soon started to go wrong after Natalie found damp in the front bedroom. Natalie said: “The problems started straight away. It was mainly wet to begin with. We didn’t know anything about damp then. The front bedroom was the worst and that was the place we slept in - then we started to see black mould. We contacted Riverside, but the person said it wasn’t damp or mould.”

During the period when the damp and black mould was getting worse, Natalie was heavily pregnant with her first child and had just found out her mum was diagnosed with stage four womb cancer - a disease which she sadly died from in May 2022. To add to her ordeal, Natalie was also suffering from her own health problems including a blood clot on the brain.

Natalie said: “So, with my mum’s health and my own and then the baby’s I just broke down and felt like I couldn’t cope with everything. When I look back at that time I can’t believe I got through it, but we’re still dealing with the fall out.”

After her son, Harley was born, Natalie spent a lot of time nursing him at her mum’s house - this way she could limit the time he spent in a mouldy home and also care for her mum during her illness. One of Natalie’s main concerns was not only the present impact on Harley but also the affect on his future health.

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Natalie said: “My anxiety was through the roof and I was just so worried about bringing the baby into a house which was unsafe because I knew the mould was there. It was such a tough time. I just went into robot mode because it was the only way I could get through it.”

Natalie felt all these fears came true when Harley began experiencing severe breathing problems and has now had a continuous cough for the last seven months. Harley is currently awaiting an appointment for the paediatric respiratory department in Alder Hey, but the family have been told there is a 10 month wait.

Billy and Natalie Parr. Image: LDRSBilly and Natalie Parr. Image: LDRS
Billy and Natalie Parr. Image: LDRS | LDRS

To compound the problem, the family GP is unable to prescribe inhalers because Harley has Global developmental delay and is on the autism spectrum. This means he becomes too distressed when administering an inhaler.

Natalie said she raised her son’s cough with her GP because of the case of Awaab Ishak, who died from a severe respiratory condition due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home. She said: “I raised it with the GP because the case of that little boy was a concern to me, and it made me worry more.”

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According to the government’s own research, the respiratory effects of damp and mould can cause serious illness and, in the most severe cases, death. The government’s guidance also brings attention to the impact on tenants’ mental health as parents like Natalie worry about the health implications for themselves and their family.

Eventually, over fours years since Natalie first raised concerns about the black damp in her home and after the intervention of local MP Peter Dowd, Riverside completed a thorough inspection and commissioned a fix which has resolved the issue. Natalie described this development as a ‘huge relief’ and also a moment of vindication for everything she had reported over the years.

However, the full effect of waiting those four years is yet to be determined and the possible impact on her baby son is something which still keeps Natalie up at night.

Frustratingly after fixing the damp and mould issue Natalie said her house was left in an ‘absolute mess’ after the repair works were complete, which felt like ‘another kick in the teeth’. She claimed thick dust was left throughout the house, her bedding and headboard damaged and her TV set was smashed.

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To claim back some of the expense of repairing the damage and replacing household items, Natalie forwarded a complaint to Riverside which detailed all the problems she had faced. Frustratingly, and despite escalation, no satisfactory action has been taken in relation to the complaint. However, Riverside has now given a full apology and have committed to working with Natalie and her family to resolve the outstanding issues.

A spokesperson for Riverside said: “We are very sorry to Ms Parr for the length of time it took to fully resolve the issues in her home and the impact that building and roofing works had on her and her family. The length of time Ms Parr has had to wait is completely unacceptable and falls well below our usual standards.

“The substantial works carried out by our contractors left a lot of dust and the standard of making good was below our expectations, we have spoken to our contractors to remind them of their responsibilities to ensure this is not repeated. Our contractors have met with Ms Parr at her home to apologise.

“We are currently investigating Ms Parr’s complaint to ensure we learn from this and are in regular contact with Ms Parr to resolve the issue.”

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