Rochdale Boroughwide Housing boss will not resign after mouldy flat led to toddler Awaab's death

Awaab Ishak, two, died as a result of prolonged exposure to black mould in his social housing flat.

The Chief Executive of a housing association says he will not resign after the tragic – and preventable – death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale.

Awaab died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in the one-bedroom flat where he lived with parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin.

They had previously made complaints about the black mould present in the kitchen and bathroom and had also made requests for re-housing.

Gareth Swarbrick, the Chief Executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, has faced growing pressures to resign from his role, including from the Housing Secretary Michael Gove.

In a statement, Mr Swarbrick said: "I want to start by saying how sorry I am to Awaab’s family for their loss - no apology will ever be enough.

"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." 

Mr Swarbrick, who was paid £170,000 in the year of Awaab's death, also added that RBH have made a "raft of changes" following the death of Awaab, including mandatory training for all staff on mould and damp.

Awaab's family responded by saying said they have seen nothing to indicate his death will serve as a "defining moment" for the housing sector.

At an inquest on Tuesday, senior coroner Joanne Kearsley said his death should be a "defining moment" for the housing sector.

Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre on 19 December 2020 with shortness of breath and transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital before being discharged.

The coroner said the family should have been told to call an ambulance or take him directly to Royal Oldham Hospital if he had further difficulties.

Some of the mould in the flat where Awaab lived with his parent.

Awaab 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, the inquest heard.

He died after arriving at Oldham.

The mould on the ceiling of the kitchen in the social housing flat where Awaab lived in Rochdale.

The coroner said: "Awaab Ishak died as a result of a severe respiratory condition caused due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment.

"Action to treat and prevent the mould was not taken. His respiratory condition led to respiratory arrest.

"The medical advice given to his parents led to Awaab receiving suboptimal ventilation of his airway which was unable to prevent his cardiac arrest."

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has vowed to hold landlords to account after the toddler's death.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Gove said Awaab's death makes it "painfully clear why we must do everything we can to better protect tenants".

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