Overcrowded council flat in Exmouth 'not fair on kids'

PUBLISHED: 06:30 17 May 2016

Brett Evans and his partner, Daniele Hughes and their five children in their  two bedroom council flat. Ref exe 19-16AW 7030. Picture: Alex Walton

Brett Evans and his partner, Daniele Hughes and their five children in their two bedroom council flat. Ref exe 19-16AW 7030. Picture: Alex Walton

Archant

A family of seven, living in a two-bedroom council flat, say they have been repeatedly turned down for larger accommodation.

Brett Evans and Daniele Hughes, who live with their five children, aged between 10 and one, in Cheshire Road, Exmouth, told the Journal they have on three occasions finished first in the district council’s house bidding process for a larger home.

On the first occasion, when they had three children, they were told they had missed out because of a ‘computer error’. On the second occasion, when they had four children, the council said it could not leave a mobile phone message for the couple as their message was not personalised, with a postal notification arriving two days after the deadline. On the third occasion, last week, they were told a house was not suitable as it has been adapted for wheelchair use.

By coincidence, this property, in Moorfield Road, is currently occupied by Brett’s sister - and the couple say the only modification is larger doors.

In their current flat, the children share the two bedrooms, while Brett and Daniele sleep on living room sofas.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) says it acknowledges the flat is overcrowded and says the couple are now able to bid for larger homes after a rent arrears situation was cleared.

Brett, 44, who gave up work as a forklift truck driver to care for the children, while Daniele, 29, works as a senior care assistant, said: “It’s horrible, and it’s not fair on the children. If I have to live with something I will, but it’s my children I’m worried about. It’s ridiculous. We can’t sleep until the kids go to sleep and if one wakes up, then they all wake up, because they’re all on top of each other.”

The couple have applied to be able to bid for three-bedroom houses as a stop-gap, while waiting for a four-bedroom home to become available, but they fear even this could take months.

An EDDC spokesperson said that, when the couple first moved into their flat, it was suitable as they had only two children, adding: “However, it is acknowledged that they are currently overcrowded and this is reflected in their application for larger accommodation. They are currently bidding for four-bedroom accommodation. At the present time, there are 70 households registered for accommodation of this size in East Devon. Mr Evans and Miss Hughes have a history of significant rent arrears, which would have excluded them from being considered for previous alternative accommodation that became available. Our records show that the arrears were cleared in March of this year and they are currently able to bid for alternative properties.

“[The Moorfield Road property] was advertised giving preference to a household requiring adaptations and was allocated accordingly.”

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