Family of boy who died from mould in flat call for housing board to resign | Housing

The family of two-year-old Awab Ishaq, who died as a result of mold in a social housing apartment, said they did not trust the Owner’s Authority board of directors and demanded their collective resignation.

In a statement on Thursday after a meeting in Rochdale with Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Settlement, Housing and Communities, they said: “While the Board remains in place, there is constant danger and risk to housing tenants in Rochdale Boroughwide.”

Last week, the Housing Association Board backed RBH chief executive Gareth Swarbrick by £157,000 a year, despite the investigator finding that exposure to persistent black mold on the walls of the family’s rental home was the cause of the infant’s death in 2020 and that the landlord had repeatedly failed. He repeatedly reformed him, blaming the “family lifestyle”.

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The board sacked Swarbrick only on Saturday after public and political protests and a new demand from the Awab family for “accountability”. It wasn’t until Tuesday this week that RBH admitted it was wrong to make assumptions that mold was caused by “lifestyle” issues – a week after the inquest’s verdict.

“The family is struggling to deal with the fact that, while grieving the loss of their child, RBH was expressing confidence in its CEO,” the family said. “They also cannot understand why RBH took so long to admit in any way that it was wrong for them to make ‘assumptions’ about the lifestyle of Mr Abdullah and Ms Amin.” [Awaab’s parents] — especially given the coroner’s findings.

They said: RBH has immediate and urgent issues that need to be addressed to ensure the safety of its tenants. The family does not feel that this council has the competence or credibility to carry out this task.”

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They concluded that they “felt ignored by RBH, but are relieved that the audience is listening”.

Gove also met RBH’s leadership just hours after it cut £1m equity funding for the housing association and warned that other failed providers would not get equity funding in the future either.

A source close to Goff described the meeting as “unsatisfactory”.

“They have again failed to answer basic questions about their operations and how they are going to ensure that tenants are safe in their homes,” the source said. “The Secretary of State has no confidence in the RBH leadership and will continue to pay very close attention to their work, in close collaboration with the regulator. He will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”

Asked about the family’s call for the board to resign, RBH’s board said in a statement that it again admitted “that we got things wrong and how deeply sorry we are for the loss of Awaab.”

“We are absolutely focused on improving the quality of our existing homes and improving any operational areas that we haven’t done before,” she said. Our immediate priority is to maintain the stability of the organization and to appoint a new interim CEO, which we are doing now.

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“The Board considers the appropriate mix of skills and experience needed to lead the organization moving forward. The Board will make the decision in dialogue with the regulator and RBH’s representative body [which includes tenant representatives] To ensure a well-managed succession plan in the future.”

The Awab family said that in conversations with them Gough showed support for the proposed “Awab Act,” which would require social landlords to quickly repair homes if a medical professional warns of a risk to residents’ health and requires landlords to investigate reports of moisture. And mold within two weeks. They said he had also agreed to provide monthly public updates advising his changes “so that a tragedy of this nature would never happen again” and that he would deal with the coroner’s recommendations for action to “fully” prevent future deaths.

About 320,000 private renters in England suffer from mold and condensation problems, as well as 116,000 renters in social housing such as Awab beds, according to government figures.

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