Monday, 27 August 2012

Welcome Home - a social housing disgrace



Today, myself and other bloggers travelled to help fellow blogger Clara who writes at I want my mummy.  Myself, Mammasaurus, SeasiderClare and Two Under Two Too spent the day painting.  If you want to help with labour, materials, furniture or in any way want to help spread the message, that would be awesome.


Go check out her post and see if you're not as outraged, furious, shocked and appalled as I was at the housing that her council have offered a young, vulnerable family.

Let me explain, in case you're under the illusion that our welfare system provides an adequate safety net to people in times of need.  And you tell me that these set of circumstances couldn't easily have happened to you, or members of your family, or your best friend.

Clara had her daughter 19 months ago. Her and her husband were living in a nice, privately rented house.  After the birth of her daughter, Clara was hit HARD by Post Natal Depression.  She was so poorly that her husband had to stop work to look after her and their baby.

Their landlord suddenly announced one day that he was selling the property.  They were given one month's notice to find a new home.  Without the savings to cover a deposit and one month's rent in advance, they moved into Clara's parents.  Being closer to her family, and the support they could offer would undoubtedly help with her PND.  They contacted the council and explained their circumstances, and were offered emergency housing, as they were now effectively homeless.

This is what they were given.









A filthy, urine infested, grime encrusted, unsecure, unsafe, ill equipped, unhygienic, unsanitary house.

Bear in mind, they are paying rent NOW on this property.  Until they are able to move in, they are also paying for storage of all their possessions and are contributing to their upkeep at their parent's.

The home is unfit to live in.  Yes, the council have 'installed a kitchen' (5 cupboards, a sink and a little bit of worktop).  They haven't however dealt with the obscene graffiti on the kitchen window, the smashed pane from vandalism, the boarded up back door where it's been kicked in, the bird shit on the kitchen walls, the layers of congealed fat, hanging like stalactites from the artex.


Yes, the council have laid some shingle in part of the back garden.  But they haven't replaced the fence that runs almost the entire boundary line adjacent to a public alleyway.  The shingle is now simply a giant litter tray for the many local cats and dogs.  They haven't made it secure from vandals, or safe for a 19 month old to play in. They haven't dealt with the exposed wire sticking up from the ground.

Yes, they have given Clara the 'maximum re-decorating allowance' of £25 per room.  But let me tell you, we used approximately £40 of paint on the living room to cover the filth, the grime, the damp patches and the shoddy walls.  That's without even taking into account the cost of materials for sanding, filling, woodwork, flooring, curtains, lighting...

Yes, I realise there are people worse off.  I know there are people without a roof at all.  Or families who are living in one-bedroom B&B accommodation.  It's exactly for all these people that we need to raise awareness.

I was under the impression that our society, our councils, our government had a safety net in place when people reached rock bottom.  That they would help them back on their feet.  That they would care for and support our most vulnerable people.

But if this is it, it's not good enough.  It's just not bloody good enough.

77 comments:

  1. You are right it's not bloody good enough. I've tweeted Norwich City Council to ask if that's indicative of the state of all their council housing they give people.

    I came away feeling angry, sad and with utter respect for Clara for being so 'fair' with her initial photos.

    Lovely to see you , even it is was in a urine scented corner x

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  2. I cannot believe ANY council would think this is acceptable. I bet if this were a private landlord, they'd be prosecuted.

    Lush to see you too x

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  3. that is a disgrace, absolutely horrific.

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  4. I am open mouthed and gobsmacked at this, its absolutely abhorent, wish I was closer to help out! I am freecycling curtains which I'd be happy to send over, they are only Ikea but still in packaging?
    Annie (@annieqpr)

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    1. I am still so shocked that they have the audacity to charge rent when it's in this condition.

      I'm sure the curtains would be most appreciated, thank you x I'll tweet you.

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  5. Oh. My. God. I'm a Housing Officer and never, ever ever would we let a house in that condition. I've worked for 2 of the biggest social housing providers in Bedfordshire and we do have to turn around properties quickly for several reasons, such as we need to get people off the housing list and into a home and the fact that we are not for profit means we cannot afford to lose rent by letting them stand empty. My colleuges and I have often cringed when signing up a property where the decoration is a bit manky and all we are offering is £75 (not £25) per room but we do have to balance it out with the fact that it is only basic housing provision and if we decorated it up then we would have to charge higher rents. However, I can't see any excuse for this appalling property. .

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    1. if you've worked in bedfordshire for housing providers i'm guessing one is aldwich housing? you should see the state of the propety they dumped us with (5 years later and it's still damp and unsafe)

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    2. No, not Aldwych! I've housed previous Aldwych tenants though and I've heard some stories. If you are not having any luck getting the repairs done to your property and have gone through the official complaints procedure with no progress, then go and see your MP and see if they can assist you further.
      I guess a surveyor has been to inspect the property?

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  6. Hi Cherise, thanks for offering your professional view. I am so naive, I never had any idea that this sort of thing as such a postcode lottery. Surely there needs to be a government stipulated minimum standard?

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    1. Well, we all know how vague minimum standards can be. Especially when they come from this current government who really doesn't give much of a stuff about housing. In fact, they'd love to let all social housing in that state and let the tenants and their friends sort it out. They'd say what you are doing now to help your friend and gather bits and bobs for her is great as it fits right in with their Big Society mumbo jumbo. I think that your first port of call should be to check their policy, it probably says in there about the standard that homes should be let so you could probably lodge a formal complaint and take it all the way to the ombudsman if needs be. If they are unwilling to cooperate then it wouldn't hurt to get the local press involved... Unfortunately, people are not so sympathetic to social housing tenants as the government and right wing media have painted such a picture of them being work shy scroungers when the reality is far different.

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  7. How heartbreaking, A good post Liz and gets the point across, Shocking

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    1. Thanks Becky, please share as much as you can x

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  8. Truly shocking. My sister-in-law got a loan from Housing Benefit which covered her first months rent and her deposit for her private rented property. Why is it that councils don't all seem to work from the same hymn sheet.
    I'm too far away to come and help but we are clearing our loft. Anything she needs that we have I'm more than willing to help out with x x

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    1. I really don't understand why there aren't national guidelines that are enforced to keep some kind of minimum standard.

      Thanks Kara, please share as much as you can x

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  9. Something for nothing
    lucky to have anywhere to live typical benefit society

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    1. Incidentally, it's not something for nothing. They are paying rent - even though it's uninhabitable.

      They are not claiming benefits. They are not entitled to Jobseekers as they cannot seek work right now. Clare is incapacitated due to PND and her husband is now full time carer to both his wife and their child. PND is not eligible for disability benefit or carers allowance as I understand it.

      I hope you are never the victim of such unfortunate circumstances.

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    2. If you are do sure of your opinion and proud of it, why are you anonymous??? Yes, some people do scrounge off the state, these people clearly are not. They are simply trying to make the best of a very bad situation and pointless comments like that help no one.

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  10. Shocking!!!! Keep Exposing the truth

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    1. Thanks Zoe, please share as much as you can x

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  11. You bloggers are amazing the way you pull together to help each other. Shocking state and simply shocks me that the government are ale to do this. They shouldn't be. Keep on going and letting everyone know how appalling the house and others are.

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    1. Thanks, please share as much as you can x

      I just wish I could help more.

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  12. When i first read this I was shocked and disgusted by the council... Then I read the even more shocking and discusting comment from anonymous! What a horrendous thing to say! No wonder they didn't have the guts to leave their name!

    I really hope the council turn around and sort this! I'm sad I can't be of any help. Xx

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    1. I know, it beggars belief doesn't it?

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  13. This is actually heartbreaking.
    Can they refuse to pay rent until it's fit to live in?
    I am shocked by the nasty comments that people have posted, as you pointed out this could happen to anyone!

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    1. I can't believe the council have the audacity to be charging rent in this state.

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  14. That really is shocking, can't believe they've been put there! So good to see that people are helping each other to make a difference though. As for 'anonymous', they're just hiding their real name which is 'idiot'. Sorry to be blunt. Good for you for raising awareness Liz!

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  15. That is pure disgusting I would go to the local paper's and a Labour MP!

    Labour are the most helpful in these situations.

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    1. We have and neither wanted to/could help :(
      The paper spoke to Clara then said they wouldn't run the story and the Labour MP offered to help and then no more word.
      Sad times.

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    2. Yep, shame people shy away from political hot potatoes :0(

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    3. Georgia Stewart27 August, 2012 22:32

      I am not sure whereabouts the property is situated. Is the MP Chole Smith (Norwich North - Lab) or Simon Wright (Norwich South - Liberal Democrat?

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    4. Chloe Smith is a Tory

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    5. Norwich City Council is Labour, not the MP's.

      Not that I am a fan of Norwich City Council, they play by they own rules, which mostly mean ignore the local people.

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  16. I am shocked that the Council offered this house and are charging for it. Decoration aside, it's the health and safety issues around infestation and damp I am concerned about. I assume that it was checked over and met mininum standards which means minimum standards need review.

    Was shocked by the stairs. It looks so bad.

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    1. Yep, it's not just a lick of paint because they don't like the decor. Bare, rough wood floors everywhere, nails sticking out of stairs, broken window, exposed wires in the garden. Fire alarms that look like they've come out of the ark. The filth. It's the garden with no fencing leading out onto a public alleyway, and then onto the road - when you've got a 19mth old??!!!

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  17. This is just so upsetting. Let me know if i can help in anyway at all. I also may have some curtains from when i moved - i'll dig them out.

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    1. Thank you Claire. I may be in touch to see if you can or if you have any contacts x

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    2. Please do. I've already passed it around the office. You know where to find me.

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  18. The real problem here is that Norwich City Council cannot give anything extra to C and her family, because then they would have to do it for everyone. And they would also be admitting that it's just not acceptable to give someone a house in that state to people to live in.

    What I do not think is fair though, is that they are paying rent on a house that is uninhabitable, where they are scraping bird faeces off the wall, that's mixed in with bird feathers, to make it somewhere that's safe for them to live in. I say live in, rather than as a place to live in general, because I don't think I'd want my family home to be open to the general public at the back. They will be broken into before they've had chance to get sorted and that will just make life even more difficult for C and her family.

    And for the file, they've not been "given a house" - they've been offered a house that they can pay to live in, just like the rest of us do. That's a little different to being "given" something. It's just that sadly, their house has bird shite and urine in it, and is incredibly dirty.

    I wonder how many of the Norwich CC staff would be happy to pay rent on that place whilst they made it somewhere they could move into?

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    1. You see, I don't think it's a case of shhh don't admit there's a problem or everyone will want helping.

      Every one SHOULD be helped if they're in this situation. I don't think the council can afford to bury their heads in the sand for any longer.

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  19. Thats awful liz but it doesn't surprise as some councils don't give 2 hoots what they give ppl to live in jersey being just as bad but charging disgusting rents ie £170 a week for a 2 bed damp infested flat!
    Good on you and the others for helping her out and for posting this on your blog putting the council to shame!!

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    1. I know, sadly this has only shown it's the tip of the iceberg. But how come some councils can get it right, whilst others can't? x

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    2. Guess its all down to the individuals running certain councils!

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  20. Georgia Stewart27 August, 2012 14:51

    Hi Liz, I'm Caroline's sister and as you know, I live in Norwich. I am disgusted by the state of the property that C and her family have been given to live in. And that people like Anonymous (who is a coward for not leaving their name) can leave such comments is a shocking idictment on our society. I agree with the other comments, espcially those about this government. I also have some curtains that are still packaged, from The Range. They are cream and 90inch by 77inch. Let me know if they are of any use. This could happen to anyone and my heart goes out to C and her family. I hope that the future is brighter and holds some happiness for them.

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    1. Hi Georgia, that's so sweet of you. Yes please on the curtains - I've messaged Caroline with the address, or they can pick up from you.

      Don't happen to know any kind-hearted builders/decorators/gardeners do you?! xx

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    2. Georgia Stewart27 August, 2012 22:25

      No problem. I'm afraid I don't have any friends in those businesses but I will ask around.

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  21. Horrendous. I actually work for a Social Housing Group GreenSquare. They operate through Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and I think all of the members of staff would be appalled at the condition of Clara's 'home'. I know my colleagues who work in the housing dept work really hard to make sure the properties are all up to a good standard of living, not everyone is lucky enough to get one of the brand new homes that (when I was in the Development Team) have been secured on larger new estates. But I know they work hard to make sure to campaign for older properties to be invested in. In fact so do the Board and I am proud to work for them. Norwich Council should be ashamed.

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    1. I hope they are ashamed. Unfortunately their rather pious tweets don't suggest so.

      It seems councils (certainly this one) are a million miles from Housing Association's standards.

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  22. Nothing to add to the above comments - just that its fantastic that the blogging community have rallied round and pitched in, and that Thatcher should never have been allowed to start selling off social housing stock. I've put this post on facebook to share it around. I hope Clara and her family can get settled in soon, and that Norwich Council do the decent thing and get the property made safe for them. xx

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    1. Thank you for sharing. Not everyone is lucky enough to have people who will help. What happens to them? :0(

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  23. Is there anyway i can help?

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    1. Hi Sara.

      Any help will be gratefully received. There is a list of physical items needed here http://mammasaurus.co.uk/help/ or practical hands on help if you live near Norwich. There's also a paypal fund been set up to buy some shopping. Other than that, and RTing or sharing of posts to raise as much awareness as possible would be amazing. x

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    2. I have some practical things like sandpaper, new tea towels and some new duplo bricks? I also have some less practical things, new home decoration and a few other pretty bits if they are any use at all x

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  24. It's horrific that this sort of thing happens in 21st century Britain. Norwich City Council seem to be ignoring tweets, etc. - do they not care either about this family or even their reputation?

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  25. That's sickening! Makes you fearful the same could happen to you. Poor Clara - she must be frightened to move in. What about damp??! Such a hovel could well endanger the lives of her family! So unfair. To think you get people on welfare that literally p@#& it up the wall when there are real people who have duly paid their taxes is disgusting. I'd get a petition together and see if there is any compensation that can be made.

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  26. Everytime I read a post about this I cannot believe how the council could let people pay rent on such a house......Norwich Council should be ashamed of themselves.

    I've got some bits I'm going to send to Beans, but I wish I could do more.

    xx

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  27. Wow, a place like that in Canada would be condemned rather than offered up to a family in need. Thank you for sharing their story. They seem like a very close nit family and with a little help from their friends hopefully will turn it into a comfy little home (and a lot of cleaning and paint).

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    1. I'm sure they will. They'll get there. Just a shame it had to be highlighted and its total strangers who are helping and chipping in. Says a lot about our society huh? The online community is much underestimated! x

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  28. On the one hand I'm appalled at the state of what Clara and her family have been offered as low-cost housing, on the other I'm pretty thrilled we live in a country where there IS provision in place for low-cost housing, crappy though it may be! What brilliant friends you are for pitching in to help - I very much hope they sort out that fence and the shattered window ASAP!

    Jem xXx

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    1. Yes, I guess it's better than being on the street. But seriously, you should see this place. No photos can show ho bad it really is.

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  29. That is awful! How can they expect anyone to live there? You are all so amazing for helping out.
    I have found that local childrens centres have family support people who are great at helping in situations like this! They also find all those grants we ever knew existed x

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  30. This is terrible. I'm absolutely shocked! My nan lives in social housing in South Manchester & their housing team are very keen. There's always a van in her avenue with people working on properties and making them decent for people. I cannot believe that in another region that this is considered acceptable. Surely a property should be at least thoroughly cleaned and made safe! Well done to your group for helping out - that is wonderful!

    Appalled at anonymous. Really, this is ok? With a young child? Too cowardly to name yourself - speaks volumes.

    Shame on the newspaper & the MP too. Cowards as well I expect.

    Who else can this be raised with?

    Sam x

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    1. With anyone and everyone Sam!!

      Pity the person who does their tweets when they log on tomorrow!

      x

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  31. Poor Clara, I think I would have just sat and cried! You are all her lifeline going to help and I am sure she is so grateful to have you all to help her and publicize her situation. Love your answer to anonymous too! x

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  32. I’m shocked and totally saddened by this. Plus I know that these pictures only tell the story in 2d, there is no smells, no sounds, no touch, nothing to make your stomach turn like there is in real life. I just can only imagine what Clara must be feeling… vulnerable, scared, disgusted.

    I’m so glad you have all reached out to Clara with such compassion and that she is receiving help from such a supportive community. Indeed imagine all those people in similar or is it even possible, worse situations…. alone, with no-one to help them. It is just appalling.

    You ladies have done an amazing job so far. I would also like to help. How are you doing with the list? Is there anything Clara particularly needs that I can send? I will also share and retweet xx

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  33. I've just posted about this too. From the previous comments you start to wonder how much difference it will make, but it's only by all of us making it clear that this is not acceptable that we have any chance of it changing. Hope so anyway! x

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  34. Tamsin Ferrier28 August, 2012 13:16

    Shocking! Am too far away to help, but will have a look in the loft for anything. Not sure if you have finished the painting but if not have a look at http://www.communityrepaint.org.uk/ might be able to get some paint/materials from them?

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    1. Thank you Tamsin x

      A local community re-sues has kindly provided lots of paint. Don't know what we'd have done without it - £25 doesn't buy much paint! xx

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  35. I'm hundreds of miles from Norwich so not much practical help :( But, I'm a private landlord of a couple of properties and would not DREAM of placing anyone in a house like that! In fact, I would probably be taken to court for breach of contract given the state of the place! How do local councils (not all, may i add!) get away with it!!?!?!?

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  36. Wow. Just wow. Every time I see these pictures I cannot believe the state of housing that is officially deemed satisfactory. Has there been any response from the council in question? Am sharing this now, thanks for posting.

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  37. Crikey thats beyond gross the poor family must be at their wits end! My experience suggests its not uncommon, my sister after spending a ling time on a council house waiting list had to completely redecorate and lay carpets, apparently the council take up all carpets, curtains etc between tenants because of the risk of fleas etc and paint according to a schedule rather than between tennants, so if the previous Tenant wrecked it, wrecked it is. Yet the same week a friend got emergency housing in the same town thru the housing association and it was immaculate, and the same rent!
    Good luck to you all, your doing a great thing x

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  38. Hi Just to say I am in a similar situation to the lady in the posts. I too live in a council flat from Norwich City Council. The ceiling in the flat is like the one in the picture and we have mould in the bathroom and in the bedroom. This is not good as I and my partner who cares for me are Asthmatic. I am a wheelchair user
    and have been advised to use a wheelchair in the flat which is unsuitable for this purpose. When going out I have a six inch step to negotiate.On Wednesday 7th Nov 2012 we had a fence fire and wheely bins too. Council doing nothing about this at present.We are trying to move but my partner has to prove that she is caring for me.
    Best wishes to the other lady and her family in Norwich. Janet and Sue .

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