Housing society boss paid £170,000 in same year boy died due to mould in flat

The chief executive of a housing society in charge of a flat where a two-year-old boy suffered prolonged exposure to mould was paid £170,000 the same year that the youngster died.

Awaab Ishak, two, 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 Aminin in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Mr Abdullah had previously complained to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) about the mould, an inquest at Rochdale Coroner’s Court was told on Tuesday.

RBH’s chief executive Gareth Swarbrick was paid £170,000 for the financial year 2020/2021, according to the housing association’s report and financial statements for the year ending March 2022.

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

The document also shows that Mr Swarbrick’s pay then increased to £185,000 for 2021/2022 – the year after Awaab died.

The revelations have prompted criticism, with social housing activist Kwajo Tweneboa calling the amount Mr Swarbrick earned “disgusting” while “failing to ensure a decent standard of living for those his organisation are supposed to be providing a service to”.

It comes after Housing Secretary Michael Gove accused Mr Swarbrick – who he said was earning “north of £150,000” – of “hiding behind procedure”.

“Honestly, it beggars belief that this guy is still in office. He is coming here in order to explain to me why it was that this tragedy was allowed to happen,” Mr Gove said.

“This is an unacceptable tragedy,” he said.

Mr Gove said he has summoned Mr Swarbrick to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

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

Mr Swarbrick said: “I can confirm I have received a letter from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities today and will meet to discuss his concerns at the earliest opportunity.”

In an earlier statement, he said Awaab’s death should be a “wake-up call for everyone in housing, social care and health”.

Mr Swarbrick said: “We have and will continue to learn hard lessons from this.

“We didn’t recognise the level of risk to a little boy’s health from the mould in the family’s home. We allowed a legal disrepair process, widely used in the housing sector, to get in the way of promptly tackling the mould.

“We must make sure this can never happen again.”

In a statement after the hearing, the youngster’s family said: “We cannot tell you how many health professionals we’ve cried in front of and Rochdale Boroughwide Housing staff we have pleaded to, expressing concern for the conditions ourselves and Awaab have been living in.

“We shouted out as loudly as we could, but despite making all of those efforts, every night we would be coming back to the same problem.”

They said they were left feeling “absolutely worthless” by RBH and alleged they were treated that way because they are not from the UK.