Family of boy who died after mould exposure seek action from housing association

The family of a two-year-old boy who died after prolonged exposure to mould said they have seen nothing to indicate his death will serve as a “defining moment” for the housing sector.

Earlier this week, an inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak found he died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in the one-bedroom housing association flat where he lived with his parents Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), has refused to resign despite calls for him to stand down following the inquest conclusion.

In a statement released by their lawyers on Friday, Awaab’s family said: “Senior coroner Joanne Kearsley said that the tragic death of our beautiful Awaab should be a ‘defining moment’ for the housing sector.

Awaab Ishak inquest
Two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died in December 2020 (Family handout/PA)

“At present, we see nothing to indicate that the death of our son will, in any way, serve as a defining moment.

“Accountability must be done and be seen to be done.

“RBH have an opportunity to demonstrate to society at large, their residents and not least us as a family that they understand the gravity of this situation.

“We await further action from RBH.”

Awaab’s inquest heard that concerns about the mould in the family’s flat had been raised with RBH a number of times but no action had been taken.

Mr Swarbrick apologised to Awaab’s family on Thursday, but said: “The conversation around my position has begun to overshadow the most important part of all of this, which is that a family has lost their child.

“Having spoken to the board, I can confirm that I will not be resigning.

“They have given me their full backing and trust to continue to oversee the improvements and changes needed within RBH.”

Earlier this week, Housing Secretary Michael Gove summoned Mr Swarbrick, who earned £170,000 in the year Awaab died, to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Mr Gove said: “Honestly, it beggars belief that this guy is still in office.”

The Housing Ombudsman is expediting three investigations into RBH and has asked for a meeting with Mr Swarbrick.