Willesden mother and sick son ‘trapped in squalor’ because of the benefit cap

PUBLISHED: 12:47 26 June 2015 | UPDATED: 15:51 30 June 2015

Charlene Cruickshank with her sick son Reneil  (Pic credit: Angela Blake)

Charlene Cruickshank with her sick son Reneil (Pic credit: Angela Blake)


A single mother in Willesden claims she is trapped “living in squalor” with her sick son because the benefit cap prevents her renting elsewhere.


Charlene Cruickshank lives with her five-year-old asthmatic son Reneil in a privately rented two-bedroom flat in Roundwood Road, which she says is plagued with rat, mice and fly infestations and damp and mould.

She claims she is unable to move as properties in the area cost much more than the £299-a-week that her Housing Benefit will cover and she is unable to top-up the shortfall.

The 31-year-old university student is already struggling to pay the extra £31 she must pay towards her rent and this will surge if she moves away.

“I’m living in squalor,” she said.

The flat is filled with damp and mould (Pic credit: Angela Blake)The flat is filled with damp and mould (Pic credit: Angela Blake)

“In the last five years things have got worse and in last two years rat and mice infestations are in my kitchen that have given rise to flies and maggots.

If I could just move I would but it’s so difficult to do that.”

She claims pleas to her landlord Desmond Stanislas have fallen on deaf ears and Brent Council are refusing to intervene despite her claims that the property hasn’t had a mandatory annual gas inspection for two years.

She said: “I was bidding for a council flat but they took me off the list as I was a low band (priority).

The bathroom walls in the property (Pic credit: Angela Blake)The bathroom walls in the property (Pic credit: Angela Blake)

“Pest control has been round but I think where the rats are dying they can’t get to them, under the floor boards or within the housing of the cooker.

“It is so bad I can’t use the kitchen and have to rely on my mother who lives nearby.”

Ms Cruickshank added damp and mould has resulted in a deterioration in her son’s health as he has had to be rushed to hospital on two occasions with breathing difficulties.

She said: “His breathing becomes shallow and he wheezes, the damp is no good for his skin, which breaks into a rash and his eyes get puffy.

The family are unable to move elsewhere (Pic credit: Angela Blake)The family are unable to move elsewhere (Pic credit: Angela Blake)

“The radiator in his room hasn’t worked for two years, the cold tap in the bathroom doesn’t work.”

Mr Stanislas told the Times he had not visited the property but had sent pest control to the property twice in the last two years.

He added: “I’d swap houses with her. Don’t worry about where I live, I wouldn’t have a problem living there.”

Councillor Margaret McLennan, lead member for housing and development at Brent Council, said: “We undertook an inspection of this property in May and subsequently sent the landlord a notice requesting that he dealt with the issues relating to maintenance, pest control and other matters.

“If the landlord does not address these issues by July 13 then the council will serve a formal improvement notice. However, we do understand that steps are already being taken by the landlord to meet his obligations.”

She added that the council implemented new housing allocation policies last year in response to a “extremely limited supply of housing in Brent” so they had no priority to house Ms Cruikshank.

Related link: Brent Council throws thousands of people off its housing waiting list

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