Rochdale Boroughwide Housing admits it made 'assumptions' before death of Awaab Ishak

111122 Awaab Ishak
Two-year-old Awaab Ishak died due to prolonged exposure to damp and mould in the housing association property. Credit: Family picture

A housing association has admitted it made "assumptions" about the family of a two-year-old who died after complaints about damp and mould in their property were ignored.

Awaab Ishak died in 2020 due to persistent exposure to black mould on the walls of the family’s rented home, a coroner ruled.

The landlord repeatedly failed to fix damp and mould issues when Awaab's parents complained to owner Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), with the housing association blaming the issues on the "family's lifestyle" the coroner also said.

Now, a week after the inquest returned its conclusion, in a series of statements made on its Twitter page, RBH has admitted it had made "assumptions" about Awaab's family.

"We did make assumptions about lifestyle and we accept that we got that wrong", the housing association said on its official page on Tuesday 22 November.

"We will be implementing further training across the whole organisation."

Awaab's family made a number of complaints to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.

The bathroom in the property had no window, the fan did not work well and the window from the kitchen, which had no mechanical ventilation, opened on to a communal hallway.

When he complained about the mould, Awaab’s father says he had been told to “paint over it”.

The family, originally from Sudan, claim they were victims of racism.

In the same series on tweets, the housing association said it "abhor[s] racism "in any shape or form".

"We know that we have a responsibility to all our communities", it said.

RBH apologised and admitted it "got things badly wrong".

The housing association promised to learn from mistakes and implement changes.

RBH sacked chief executive Gareth Swarbrick on Saturday after he refused to resign following the coroner's damning verdict.

The housing association said it will appoint an "experienced interim external" chief executive "as soon as possible".Suzanne Muna, secretary of Social Housing Action Campaign, told ITV News Tuesday's statement is too little too late.

"[Rochdale Boroughwide Housing] could see the state of the Ishak's house and they've got other residents with the same problems," she said.

"Tenants and residents with lived experience of housing associations know that they are not."

Gareth Swarbrick was sacked four days after Awaab Ishak's inquest. Credit: PA

Ms Muna, who campaigns for tenants and residents across the UK, told ITV News that damp and mould is a "widespread" problem" and that she thinks "almost every" landlord has properties that are unsafe.

"Nonetheless, tenants and residents are expected to suffer in silence whilst being grateful for being housed," she added.RBH said it will now treat damp and mould as a "critical" housing safety issue.

Following the inquest, Housing Secretary Michael Gove has demanded all councils and social housing providers make an "urgent assessment" of housing conditions for tenants.