Ministers have announced that landlord guidance on the health risks of damp and mould is to be reviewed following the tragic death of a young child in Rochdale.
In December 2020, two-year-old Awaab Ishak passed away after a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his parent’s home in Greater Manchester.
The flat, which was owned by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), has been stripped of its funding, with its chief executive, Gareth Swarbrick, being sacked after it emerged he made £170,000 during the year of Ishak’s death.
In response to the incident, which gained nationwide coverage, Michael Gove and Steve Barcley set out five areas of concern and said they wanted to update current guidance on social housing.
These changes would include guidance on damp and mould as well as a housing health and safety rating system.
The two also said that important health information about damp and mould cannot be easily accessed.
Mr Gove said: “Awaab Ishak’s death was a tragedy that should never have occurred. People across the country were horrified to hear about the terrible circumstances that led to it.
“Awaab’s case has thrown into sharp relief the need for renewed action to ensure that every landlord in the country makes certain that their tenants are housed in decent homes, and they are treated with dignity and fairness.”
After an inquest into Awaab’s death was concluded, the senior coroner, Joanne Kearsley said: “I’m sure I’m not alone in having thought, ‘How does this happen? How, in the UK in 2020, does a two-year-old child die from exposure to mould in his home?’
“The tragic death of Awaab will and should be a defining moment for the housing sector in terms of increasing knowledge, increasing awareness and a deepening of understanding surrounding the issue of damp and mould.”
Inquest into Awaab Ishak’s death in Rochdale
During the inquest, Kearsley described Awaab to be “an engaging, lively, endearing two-year-old,” finding that when developing mould was reported, the boy’s father was told to paint over it in 2017.
In June 2020, Abdullah instructed solicitors to put forward a claim over the issue but policy meant that repairs could not be carried out until after an agreement was reached.
Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre on December 19 due to shortness of breath and was transferred to Oldham Hospital before being discharged.
His health then deteriorated the next day and his parents were advised by the Community Children’s Nursing Team to take him to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre.
However, he suffered respiratory and cardiac arrests while being transferred to Oldham where he sadly died because of prolonged exposure to mould.
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