Awaab Ishak: Housing boss sacked over boy's death after mould exposure

Awaab Ishak died after being exposed to mould in his housing association flat

The board of a Housing Association Rochdale has sacked its Chief Executive over the death of a toddler who died after being exposed to mould in his home.

Gareth Swarbrick had refused to resign over Awaab Ishak's death due to the poor condition of his housing association flat.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove had summoned Mr Swarbrick, to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and said "Honestly, it beggars belief that this guy is still in office."

Richard Swarbrick who had refused to resign has now been sacked Credit: PA

Rochdale's RBH said, “The Board has taken the decision to remove Gareth Swarbrick from his post as Chief Executive of RBH with immediate effect."

“We will now work to appoint an external Interim Chief Executive.

“Our original instincts were for Gareth to stay on to see the organisation through this difficult period and to make the necessary changes, but we all recognise that this is no longer tenable."

On Friday the board had backed Mr Swarbrick's decision to stay on and bring about improvements, but took action after pressure grew for him to step down.

There was a round of applause at a vigil in Rochdale when Mr Swarbrick's sacking was announced.

It has been organised by Greater Manchester Tenants Union to show support for his family and call for urgent action to protect tenants.

Round of applause at vigil in Rochdale when Mr Swarbrick's sacking was announced Credit: ITV Granada

RBH said, “The Coroner noted that RBH had made changes as a result of the tragic death of Awaab."

"Under new leadership RBH will continue to embed these changes and to continue to drive further improvements to our homes and to our communications with tenants."

“We are committed to sharing what we have learnt about the impact to health of damp, condensation and mould with the social housing sector, and to supporting sector wide changes."

"We will work with other agencies local and national and with central government in implementing the wider changes recommended to them by the Coroner."

“As an organisation we are deeply sorry for the death of Awaab and devastated that it happened in one of our homes. "

We must ensure this can never happen again. His death needs to be a wake-up call for everyone in housing, social care and health."

“We support the Coroner and Housing Ombudsman’s call for the government’s Decent Homes Standard to be strengthened to include damp and mould.

Awaab Ishak died despite his parents repeated attempts to report the mould Credit: PA

The family of Awaab Ishak said they have seen nothing to indicate his death will serve as a "defining moment" for the housing sector.

Earlier this week, an inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak found he died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in the one-bedroom housing association flat.

Lawyers for the Ishak family called for urgent action over toddler's death Credit: ITV Granada

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."

The fact that RBH’s Chief Executive had to be sacked as opposed to resign, for the family speaks volumes.

They said they find it wholly unacceptable that the board expressed confidence in him thefirst place and believe it was the public support that played a vital role in RBH’s chief executive being sacked. 

The family would now urge you to go online and sign the petition calling for an Awaab’s law.

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.

Mr Swarbrick apologised to Awaab's family on Thursday, but refused to resign.

He 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."

The Housing Ombudsman is expediting three investigations into RBH and has asked for a meeting with Mr Swarbrick.