The family of a boy who died of mold in an apartment is calling on the housing board to resign | Housing

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The family of Awaab Ishak, the two-year-old who died from mold in a social housing flat, have said they have no confidence in the landlords’ board and called for their mass resignation.

In a statement on Thursday after a meeting in Rochdale with Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levels, Housing and Communities, they said: “While the current board remains, there is an ever-present risk and danger to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing tenants.”

Last week the housing association’s board backed £157,000-a-year RBH chief executive Gareth Swarbrick despite a coroner finding exposure to persistent black mold on the walls of the family’s rented home was a cause of the infant’s death in 2020. and that the landlord had repeatedly failed to fix it, blaming the mold on “the family’s lifestyle”.

Only the board fired Swarbrick on Saturday following public and political outcry and a new demand from Awaab’s family for “accountability”. And RBH did not admit that it was wrong to make assumptions that the cause of the mold was down to “lifestyle” issues until Tuesday this week – a week after the inquest’s verdict.

“The family is struggling to cope with the fact that while grieving the loss of their child, RBH expressed confidence in their CEO,” the family said. “They also cannot understand why it took so long for RBH to in any way acknowledge that it was wrong for them to have made ‘assumptions’ about the lifestyles of Mr Abdullah and Ms Amin. [Awaab’s parents] – especially in light of the coroner’s findings.”

They said: “RBH has immediate and urgent issues that need to be addressed to ensure the safety of their tenants. The family do not feel that this board has the competence or credibility to do the job.”

They concluded that they “felt ignored by RBH but feel heartened that the public is listening”.

Gove also met RBH’s management just a few hours after he cut off £1m in capital funding to the housing association and warned that other failing providers would not get capital funding in the future either.

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

“They have once again failed to answer basic questions about their operations and how they will ensure tenants are safe in their homes,” the source said. “The Minister of Foreign Affairs does not trust the management of RBH and will continue to pay close attention to their work in close cooperation with the regulator. He will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”

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

“We are absolutely focused on improving the quality of our existing homes and improving all operational areas where we have previously underperformed,” it said. “Our immediate priority is to maintain stability in the organization and to appoint a new interim CEO, which we are in the process of doing.

“The board reflects on the appropriate mix of skills and experience needed to lead the organization going forward. The board makes the decision in dialogue with the supervisory authority and RBH’s board of representatives [which includes tenant representatives] to ensure that there is a well-managed succession plan for the future.”

In talks with them, Awaab’s family said, Gove had shown support for a proposed “Awaab’s Law”, which would require social landlords to repair homes quickly if a doctor warns there is a risk to residents’ health and require that landlords investigate reports of damp. and form within fourteen days. They said he also agreed to provide monthly public updates outlining his changes “so that a tragedy of this nature can never happen again” and that he would consider the coroner’s recommendations for actions to prevent future deaths “fully “.

Around 320,000 private tenants in England suffer from problems with mold and condensation, on top of 116,000 in social housing like Awaab’s family, according to government figures.

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