As damp and mould becomes more prevalent in homes, Public Voice is working with partners and the Haringey community to help those most affected. 

In December 2023, The Health Foundation published a report on healthy homes in England, citing that England has the highest proportion of inadequate housing in Europe, with 15% of all existing homes not meeting the ‘Decent Homes Standard’. 

In November 2023, The Guardian published an article on how harmful damp and mould in the home can be and who is most at risk. 

In cold winter months these issues become more prevalent, especially for those who live in rented or social housing. They can have serious consequences on our mental and physical wellbeing. Our Social Prescribing team, the Community Connectors at Haringey Reach and Connect, and the team at Haringey Advice Partnership hear about these issues on a regular basis and have been working closely with those affected and housing services to provide crucial support. 

The importance of carpets on health and wellbeing 

Carpets are more than just a decorative feature in a home, providing warmth, comfort, and insulation. However, many social housing tenants are living without carpets or any other flooring, potentially leading to serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.  

According to a survey by The National Centre for Social Research, 1.2 million people in the UK have no carpet or flooring in their bedrooms and living areas. The vast majority, some 760,000 people, live in social housing. This is because most social landlords remove carpets when a tenant moves out due to issues around hygiene, but they are not always replaced quickly or at all. 

Living without carpets or any other flooring makes homes colder and damper, increasing the likelihood of mould growth occurring. Bare floors have lower thermal resistance than carpets, meaning they lose heat faster.  

Unsurprisingly, all of this can lead to negative impacts on health and wellbeing. Prolonged living in cold and damp housing can increase the risk of various health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, and mental health issues.  

In July 2023, the Housing Ombudsman Service uncovered a ‘culture of apathy’ around housing issues within the London Borough of Haringey. This investigation began after concerns about the landlord’s approach to leaks, damp, and mould. We asked Haringey Council to provide an update on their response to the Housing Ombudsman Service report. 

What is Public Voice doing to help? 

The Social Prescribers at Public Voice have seen firsthand how these issues can affect people within Haringey. Social Prescribing, introduced into the NHS in 2019, provides a person-centered approach to address social issues and improve health and wellbeing. 

Gerald, one of our Social Prescribers, has worked across GP practices in Haringey for three years and explains that at least 80% of his patient referrals are related to issues of damp and mould. 

Gerald’s biggest concerns include the accountability of private landlords who rent out properties not fit for purpose in the first instance, assessments carried out by Housing Officers not completed to the required standard, and housing repairs logged by residents that are not completed within reasonable timeframes, sometimes years later. 

Gerald said: “By liaising with Haringey Council, Citizens Advice Haringey, and Social Services, I managed to resolve a number of issues raised by patients, but for many tenants the issues remain. Statutory housing services and private landlords need to be held more accountable when they don’t respond to concerns or take action to improve damp and mouldy homes.” 

Ashley, one of the Community Connectors at Haringey Reach and Connect, also has first-hand experience with these issues. Community Connectors provide support, information, and guidance to enable local people over 50 to improve their wellbeing. 

Ashley has supported tenants with successful grant applications for carpets and white goods for their homes, whilst also connecting them with local community networks to improve their wellbeing. One of Ashley’s clients was discharged from hospital and moved into social housing, to find that it only had a bed, chair, and a microwave, but no white goods or carpets. With Ashley’s help they were able to access the Haringey Support Fund to get the things they needed. 

Ashley said: “It cannot be overstated how impactful these issues can be on someone’s mental wellbeing. Many do not have a support network, such as friends or family, they may not be able to drive or transport items, and any advance they may receive from the Department of Work and Pensions is deducted from their monthly benefit, leaving them little to live on.” 

Furthermore, Haringey Reach and Connect work closely on these kinds of issues with Engage Haringey, through client referrals. Engage Haringey is a housing-related Floating Support Service for people aged 18 and over living in Haringey and those placed outside Haringey in Temporary Accommodation. 

In December 2023, Anushka, from Haringey Advice Partnership, was contacted by a family with two young children who were living in a one-bedroom flat with constant leaks coming from the ceiling and water running down the walls. 

After speaking with the client, it came to light that they had attempted to contact the private landlord three times with no response. They also contacted Haringey’s Housing Advice team who assured them that they would investigate the issue, but this process was delayed. 

Anushka contacted the Private Sector Housing Team at Haringey Council to raise the concerns, and an investigating case officer has now made contact with the landlord, advising them to carry out repairs to the property without delay.

What is being done at a national level? 

These issues have become more urgent since the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020, whose death was linked to mould exposure brought about by poorly managed housing. The Social Housing Regulation Bill, currently before Parliament, is expected to strengthen tenants’ rights to hold their landlords to account for poor housing conditions and has been amended with Awaab’s Law. This new law will place more requirements on landlords fixing dangerous living conditions in a shorter timeframe.  

In September 2023, the Government published a document that recommends landlords to work with professionals to treat damp and mould in homes. It sets out not only the health risk damp and mould can pose, but also the legal responsibilities of social and private sector landlords 

While these measures are welcome, the challenge of cold and damp housing remains a significant one, contributing to and exacerbating physical and mental wellbeing challenges for many people.  

Help and advice on dealing with damp and mould 

If you are living in cold and damp housing without carpets or any other flooring, report the problem to your landlord as soon as possible. It is their legal responsibility to ensure your home is safe and fit to live in, and they should also help with cost of buying flooring if you are struggling financially. 

Haringey Council has published a help and advice on dealing with damp and mould page on their website, providing guidance on reporting damp and mould in your home, whether you are a Haringey Council tenant, leaseholder or in temporary accommodation. They also have helpful tips on reducing the amount of moisture in your home, improving air flow, and how to treat small patches of mould. 


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