Ministers have announced a review of landlord guidance on the health risks of damp and mould following the death of a young child.
Two-year-old Awaab Ishak 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.
Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), which owned the flat, has been stripped of its funding and its chief executive, Gareth Swarbrick, was sacked after it emerged that he earned £170,000 during the year of Awaab’s death.
In a response to a coroner’s decision in November that Awaab had died because of the mould, ministers Michael Gove and Steve Barclay set out five areas of concern.
They want to update current guidance to social homes to include damp and mould as well as review the housing health and safety rating system.
They also said the housing sector cannot easily access relevant health information about damp and mould, that the private landlord sector does not have access to the Housing Ombudsman and that a policy among housing associations meant they would wait for their tenant’s complaints to be settled before fixing disrepairs.
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.”
An inquest into Awaab’s death concluded in November after which 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.”
In her findings, the coroner described Awaab as “an engaging, lively, endearing two-year-old”.
She said Mr Abdullah reported mould developing in the Tweedale Street flat to RBH in 2017 and was told to paint over it.
In June 2020, Mr Abdullah instructed solicitors and initiated a claim over the recurring issue but policy meant any repairs would not be done until an agreement had been reached, the inquest heard.
Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre on December 19 with shortness of breath and transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital before being discharged.
The boy deteriorated the next day and his parents were advised by the Community Children’s Nursing Team to take him back to the Rochdale Urgent Care Centre.
He went into respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest while being transferred to Oldham, where he died.