Landlord 'disappointed' after alerting CYF to revolting conditions

Rubbish around the outside of the house (Sinead Ogilvie)
Rubbish around the outside of the house (Sinead Ogilvie)

A Nelson landlord has described a horror house where two young children lived among dog and human faeces.

Sinead Ogilvie says she is disappointed Child Youth and Family Services (CYF) did not take immediate action after she alerted the agency to the situation.

CYF have since apologised for their handling of the case. 

"While CYF was involved in an assessment of this family we have not done a good enough job. The photos prove our assessment has been poor. I apologise for that," CYF upper south operations manager Helen Aiken says.

Ms Ogilvie says alarm bells started ringing at her rental property when she noticed dogs in their own excrement and rubbish outside. The tenants, who hadn't been living there long, had also driven through the double-garage doors.

"I thought 'hang on something's not right here'."

Ms Ogilvie knew two young children also lived at the property with their mother and her partner so put in an anonymous call to CYF.

"I'd never forgive myself if I didn't raise it with [CYF]," she says.

She was told her complaint didn't warrant an immediate response.

"I just thought 'that is just crazy - in this day and age with all of the media hype around children abuse and neglect why are we not actually erring on the side of caution and looking into these cases straight away?"

Ms Ogilvie was threatened she would be beaten and raped by the mother's partner when she called to discuss the issues. Her father was also threatened.

She was told she had no right to judge the mother or her situation.

However, Ms Ogilvie evicted them and when she went to the house, she was shocked.

(Sinead Ogilvie)

The lounge had stained carpet and cigarette butts littered everywhere.

Dishes were on every surface in the kitchen, with mouse droppings on the bench and a pot of mouldy food.

Children's clothes, which "stunk of urine", were piled up in the laundry. Along the hallway was human and dog faeces and a pair of mouldy children's pyjamas.

(Sinead Ogilvie)

"One room in particular was just so awful I'm upset just talking about it," she says.

Human and dog faeces were smeared all over the walls and floors of a room, as well as on a mattress. Among the mess Ms Ogilvie found kids toys and kids clothing, and the contents of a school bag.

"That's what really got me is that this was a day-to-day environment for two young kids."

"Imagine coming home after school to that."

(Sinead Ogilvie)

The carpet has had to be ripped up and the house will be tested for P contamination. It took two solid days of work for Ms Ogilvie and her sister's partner to fill two skips with rubbish from the property.

"We were wearing two pair of gloves, overalls, masks and everything just entering because it stunk so much."

"That to me, that's surviving that's not living."

The house is now gutted and Ms Ogilvie will begin cleaning it properly soon.

She has since emailed an open letter to CYF with photos as well as posting the letter to social media.

(Sinead Ogilvie)

"It takes a lot to pick up the phone and complain about child abuse," she says.

"Any time, day or night, that CYF get a call I don't believe you can prioritise or grade the level of urgency when it's a child, so I'm actually quite disappointed."

She had hoped they would investigate immediately.

"Why would we not value children's lives enough to do that, even if it's precautionary?"

Ms Ogilvie says one of the children's grandmothers has also laid numerous complaints to CYF but no action has been taken.

"I actually want better for those kids and don't want them to become another statistic later on down the track," she says.

Ms Ogilvie also wants to encourage others to keep their eyes and ears open and speak up.

"To what loyalty do we owe a mother who's keeping her home like this? Why is she more important in keeping her kids with her than the children themselves and their health and wellbeing?"

CYF will be monitoring the children closely Ms Aiken says and staff have been to visit them.  

"We are also following up with staff to see how we got it wrong in assessing this family."

Ms Aiken says CYF will continue to work with the children and their family.