Awaab Ishak: Tenants Union hold vigil in Rochdale after boy's death caused by mould

A vigil will be held in Rochdale after the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from prolonged exposure to mould.

It has been organised by the Greater Manchester Tenants Union and members of the public are being asked to gather at Rochdale Borough Council offices from 2pm on Saturday.

The Union is demanding the resignation of RBH Chief Executive, Gareth Swarbrick, as well as a charge of corporate manslaughter to be brought against RBH.

It is also calling on the government to make the resources available to bring social housing up to acceptable standards.

"Awaab Ishak and his family's concerns were ignored by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, who tried to blame 'cultural factors’ for the mould growing in their home. While Awaab's family were grieving, RBH bosses enjoyed massive pay hikes."

  • Report by Rob Smith, ITV News Granada Reports

Rochdale Council has called for homes run by a housing association to be returned to local authority control after a two-year-old boy died from prolonged exposure to mould.

An inquest into the death of toddler Awaab Ishak found he died from a respiratory condition caused by black mould in the social housing flat where he lived with his parents.

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

The leader of Rochdale Borough Council Neil Emmott, along with Tory group leader John Taylor and cabinet member Daniel Meredith wrote to Housing Secretary Michael Gove.

Awaab Ishak’s death aged two prompted the Government to promise action on poor housing Credit: Family handout/PA

In the letter, they proposed two measures to "radically transform" the services provided to residents in RBH homes.

They said: "The first is that the housing stock managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing is returned to the control of the local authority alongside the required funding.

"The second is that alongside the investigation being carried out by the Housing Ombudsman, in a similar way that commissioners are appointed to failing councils, you direct representatives of that body or the regulator Homes England to take temporary charge of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing until the organisation can regain the trust of its tenants, the council and government.

"As you may be aware, following your request for the chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, Gareth Swarbrick, to resign he has refused to do so and now, to our great disappointment and surprise, been given the full backing of his board."

In a statement released by their lawyers, 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.

"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.

Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing Credit: RBH/PA

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, Mr 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.

Mould in the flat where Awaab Ishak lived.

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