By Noel Baker
Irish Examiner
June 06, 2012

Living conditions in one of the country’s most disadvantaged flat complexes are so bad that children are absent from school for more than 20 days a year due to health problems, a report revealed yesterday.

The report on housing conditions at Dolphin House in Dublin found the local authority housing unit, home to some 900 people, is beset by serious problems ranging from dampness and mould to sewerage concerns and insufficient information from the local authority.

Serious concerns were expressed by residents about failure to improve standards.

The inhabitants of 75 flats surveyed claimed in many cases, the situation had either remained the same or worsened across a number of indicators. Some 72% reported dampness in their flats, exactly the same as the last “benchmark” during the monitoring in May 2010.

The last two years also saw just one percentage point fewer residents claiming they had mould in their flat, down from 64% to 63%.

There was some improvement in terms of the number of residents who expressed concern about health because of sewerage or damp — down from 91% in 2010 to 62% now — and the number of residents reporting sewerage invasion or smells, down from 89% two years ago to 57% now.

However, the impact of substandard housing conditions on the health of children was highlighted.

More than 90% of people surveyed said their children had missed school in the past year as a direct result of illness caused by housing conditions, such as stomach upset, respiratory problems, or nausea.

Most of those who had missed school were absent for more than 10 days.

Almost 44% of households in the estate are families, with 279 children under the age of 14 residing there.

Debbie Mulhall of the Rialto Rights in Action Group said the findings were “disturbing”.

Cecilia Forristal of the group said: “It is no surprise that children here face an obstacle course greater than that faced anywhere else in the country.”

She and others present at yesterday’s launch criticised the failure of ministers responsible for housing to attend such meetings. The Chairman of the Dolphin House Regeneration Board, Fergus Finlay, said that while Dublin City Council received a lot of criticism, some of it warranted, it was not solely to blame.

Mr Finlay said the board had tried and failed to get HSE and Department of Education representatives to attend meetings.

He said that, in addition to resolving housing issues, regeneration needs “top class facilities”, good family supports, after-school facilities and play areas. “None of it will happen without political decisions. The people who really have to get stuck in are the Government, at every level,” he said.

Dublin City Council assistant manager Dick Brady said the council would encourage more involvement from Government to tackle the problems.