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Daughter tells of her disgust as her widowed mum forced to live in damp and mouldy home in east Belfast

By Claire Williamson

Published 02/05/2015

Sarah McKeown in her temporary room at Cabin Hill Court OakleeTrinity Community Sheltered accommodation
Sarah McKeown in her temporary room at Cabin Hill Court OakleeTrinity Community Sheltered accommodation
Cupboards destroyed with damp

A furious daughter has told of her disgust that her 87-year-old mother was left to live in a flat full of mould and damp before she was forced to intervene.

Widowed mother-of-four Sarah McKeown from Co Down had lived in OakleeTrinity Community Accommodation in east Belfast quite happily for years until two months ago when a leak destroyed her flat.

It started two floors above her ground-floor flat but the water collected and it was absorbed by the walls and carpet, and mould began to grow in the bathroom and even on the elderly woman’s shoes. Her daughter Claire Hunt reported the leak on March 18 as she was concerned for her mother’s health.

She asked her to consider moving out of the accommodation temporarily but she said when she proposed this it would make her mother upset.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: “I tried to get her to move out but I would turn around and see the tears tripping her face in the anxiety of it all.

“We realised this is a crisis and started to think of getting her out. We tried to persuade her to move but she wouldn’t. You could smell it in the atmosphere, we said, ‘you can’t stay here it’s not safe’ and then she started to get really upset.”

On April 6, Claire said she took matters into her own hands and moved her to another room within the accommodation, but it did not have a telephone for her to be in constant contact with her family.

She remains in the guest room surrounded by boxes of her belongings. Work has begun to fix the problem but Claire remains angry at the lack of “urgency” about her mother when she first reported the problem. She said: “Watching her traumatised and suffering is the hardest bit.

“Mum was a casualty in the middle of the case. Everyone was asking about the leak and the building. No one was saying that her health or her welfare was in question. Having contacted the Belfast Telegraph, Oaklee are now responding. However, it’s sad they didn’t see it as an emergency when it was.

“She is 87 and all she could do is sit in her chair and worry, that’s why I’m absolutely disgusted at the way she’s been treated.”

OakleeTrinity apologised for any inconvenience caused. A spokeswoman said: “Oaklee Trinity is aware of a number of issues as a result of a leaking pipe at Cabinhill Court.

“The drying out process has taken longer than expected and we have apologised for the inconvenience this has caused. During the repair work OakleeTrinity staff continue to be in regular contact with Mrs McKeown and her family to update them on the progress of the repairs.

“We are currently working to resolve any outstanding matters this week and have agreed to make a suitable compensatory gesture to our tenant over this matter.”

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