A mother pregnant with her tenth child has demanded a bigger council house in the countryside, despite raking in almost £30,000 a year in state handouts.
Iona Heaton, 43, said her four-bedroom home in Blackburn is too small for her enormous family and complained that the property is cold, damp and festering with mould.
The mother of nine shares the terraced house with her boyfriend Paul Brown, 45, and her children Kaiden, nine months, Zak, two, Keegan, three, Kian, four, Elle, six, Kain, seven, Jade, 16 and Shannon, 17.
She also has a 24-year-old son, Sean, who does not live at home, and she is three months pregnant with her tenth child.
Now she and Mr Brown want housing association firm Twin Valley, which runs the terrace along with Darwen Council, to move her to a larger ‘more child friendly’ property.
The family receive £575 a week in child benefits and disability allowances – as daughter Elle has epilepsy.
This is despite the fact that Mr Brown takes home £1,000 a month from his job as a metal polisher.
They would need to be earning a combined salary of £41,000 to take home the £30,000 a year they receive just in benefits and allowances.
The housing association said it had spent £4,000 on fixing the problems and visited the property 25 times.
Family trip: From left, back row to front, Iona, Paul, Shannon, Jade, Cain, Sean, Elle and Kian at Pontins in 2008 – where they holiday with each other
Mrs Heaton said today: ‘All the kids have asthma now, and we’re constantly back and forth to the doctors for antibiotics. I have to have five children sleeping in my bedroom with me because their rooms are so freezing and damp.
‘Paul and I argue all the time because it’s so stressful living in a house like this. Because nothing gets done, I’ve asked to move, but they say we can’t because they haven’t got a house big enough for all of us.
‘I like having a big family. None of my family speaks to me any more because I have so many children – but it’s their loss. It’s not about getting more money – if we didn’t cope, then we wouldn’t have kids.
‘Money is not tight; we survive quite well on what we have. As soon as we come back from our summer holiday, we start putting money away for Christmas.
‘But it is quite costly buying clothes and shoes for the children – most of them are handed down, but because they are growing all the time, they need new things. Elle is always falling and ripping her clothes because of her condition.
‘We have to buy mattresses for the beds and cot, as well as bed covers each month because of the damp.’
Mr Brown said: ‘I have to bleach the walls every morning before the kids go to school. The fact that my kids are rubbing against walls covered in green mould is just disgusting.
‘I want a bigger house with somewhere for the kids to play; somewhere with a garden. This house isn’t big enough for all of us. It’s not a children-friendly area either because we’re on a main road, so cars fly round the corner.
‘If I had my way, we would live somewhere in the countryside. I feel like I’m letting my family down, it’s not giving them much of a future. When you look out the back, all you see is an ugly asbestos shed, it’s not very nice.
‘We love our children. They’re not starving or under-clothed. People will probably have their opinions, but each to their own.’
The family receive £275 disability allowance each month, £156 a week in child benefits and a further £350 a week from child tax credits.
The family moved into the property seven years ago and Mrs Heaton said the dining room floor has been constantly wet because of problems with a natural spring beneath,
Five of the children – Keegan, Zak, Elle, and Kian – share a double bed with her because their rooms are unsuitable.
Baby Kaiden sleeps in his cot while Jade and Shannon have in their own bedrooms, and Mr Brown and Kain sleep downstairs on the sofa.
Mr Brown has been in touch with the council for six years about the water problem and has also told them that the house is not big enough for the family.
The house has a wide flat-screen TV, computers, Nintendo Wii, digital camera and iPhone and the family take a two-week holiday to Pontins in Southport each year.
But Mrs Heaton – who had her eldest son when she was 19 – complained: ‘The house is disgusting and barely fit for human habitation. The floor in the dining room is damp because water comes through the cracks. There is damp all up the walls in every room.
‘My son Sean moved out and lives in a flat. We’ve lived here for seven years and if we knew there was going to be damp problems, we wouldn’t have moved in.
‘Two of the rooms are too cold to sleep in at night and the bed covers are always damp. It’s just disgusting – we can’t even replace the wall paper because it just peels off. Green mould is growing in every room of the house.
‘I’m one of eight children and have always wanted a big family. I’ve told Paul we are stopping after this one, but he won’t have the snip so I’ll have to.’
Mrs Heaton, whose first three children are from a previous relationship, said the damp was even affecting her family’s health.
She added: ‘Paul went to the doctors with a throat infection and he was struggling to breathe – they found out he was suffering from asthma. He just developed it since moving here.
‘Keegan has asthma as well and Kaidan has a really bad cough. We’re always back and forth getting antibiotics because they always seem to have a cold.’
Her boyfriend added: ‘We feel very frustrated because they never jump on the job – they’ve only just come to look at our leaking floor now.
‘Water coming up through the floor should be judged as an emergency, but they’re just not bothered. We’re shocked that after six years we are yet to be moved into a new home.’
Kevin Ruth, Twin Valley Homes’ Executive Director, said: ‘In just under three years, we have been to Miss Heaton’s property 25 times and spent around £4,000 on independent surveys and extra maintenance to try and alleviate her condensation problem.
‘We have given advice on minimising condensation and installed a positive ventilation system, which we have discovered has been covered up with plastic bags and tape on a number of occasions.
‘With so many people and pets living in the property condensation is unavoidable unless the property is properly ventilated.
‘We have identified the problem with the dampness in the dining room. This is not caused by a natural spring as has been suggested but by a blocked drain from a privately rented property next door. As a goodwill gesture, we cleared the problem next door and offered to replace the damaged flooring.
‘While we can appreciate Miss Heaton’s wish for a bigger home, Twin Valley Homes only have 15 of its 8,000 properties that have more bedrooms than the one she is currently in and they are all tenanted.
‘But we have sent her an application form for our B-With-Us register – a partnership of 17 social landlords that advertise accommodation across the Pennine Lancashire region – which will allow her to apply for suitable properties.’