A 24-year-old care-leaver who has been stuck in mouse-infested, damp-ridden temporary accommodation for three years feels she has been “cheated out of the system.”

Bianca Littlejohn was moved by Lewisham Council to a multiple occupancy property with her seven-year-old daughter on Inchmery Road, Catford, in 2018 after being evicted from a housing association flat for failure to pay arrears in 2018.

The heating system broke down on multiple occasions, leaving the flat so cold that she was hospitalised for a week in December 2020 with pneumonia and sepsis.

While the heating was fixed in April, mould and damp remain prominent throughout the property, which is regularly visited by mice.

News Shopper: The rodent infestation has gone unaddressed The rodent infestation has gone unaddressed


Ms Littlejohn, who was in care from 12 to 18, said: “I feel like I’ve been cheated out of the system. I shouldn’t be here right now.

“I’ve been here nearly three years, even though it was supposed to be temporary.

"The issues with damp, mould and mice are ongoing. I’ve never had a great response from the council.

"All they ever tell me is that they will send out pest control. They have done countless times, but it never works.

"There are cockroaches where I eat, sleep and throughout the communal areas.

"The mould is in my room right above where I sleep - I can never relax."

Ms Littlejohn and her daughter eat and sleep in one room, sharing a bathroom with other residents. 

She fell behind on the rent payments for her previous property as she was unable to access universal credit.

As a care-leaver under 25, she received guidance from a personal advisor, who instructed her to apply for housing directly through the council.

Ms Littlejohn believes she was improperly advised, and could have instead applied for housing through social services, which would have meant her status as a care-leaver was taken into account.

According to Lewisham Homes, personal advisers should advocate on behalf of care leavers to "ensure that they retain their secure housing nominations with the council."

"I know other people who've been given as second chance under social services," Ms Littlejohn said.

"I should have been, and I haven’t."

A spokesperson for Lewisham Homes provided the following statement: "Lewisham Homes apologises for any delays in resolving a persistent problem with the heating at this property.

"This work was completed in April. We are contacting the resident to arrange a visit to investigate the overall condition of the property, particularly regarding damp, possible infestation and cleanliness of the communal areas.

"We would not discuss personal details of a resident with the media. However, personal advisers are allocated to care leavers who advocate on their behalf to ensure that they retain their secure housing nominations with the council.

"The council’s social work team is happy to meet with the resident, her personal advisor and a representative from Lewisham Homes, so that all concerns regarding her housing situation can be addressed.

"We are undertaking a major programme of works and improvements as part of an ongoing commitment to improve standards across all the housing we manage, with £78m being invested this year alone.

"Like all of London, Lewisham is facing a housing crisis, with over 10,000 households on our housing waiting list and around 2,500 people in temporary accommodation.

"As much as we’d like to offer everyone on that list a council home, unfortunately it just isn’t possible, so we work with residents to explore practical and affordable options in the private rented sector.

"We encourage the resident to continue to bid on all suitable properties on the housing register on a weekly basis.

"Our officers will also continue to look for suitable private rented accommodation and we will be in touch with the resident in due course.

"Unfortunately we are not able to provide an exact time frame when this resident will be rehoused but we will continue with efforts to find a suitable home for this household."

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