Toddler’s Death From Mould Described As A ‘defining Moment’ For Housing

Awaab Ishak

A two-year-old boy died due to black mould in his home that was “unfit for human habitation”, an inquest has found.

Awaab Ishak, who celebrated his second birthday just a week before he died from a respiratory condition in December 2020, lived in a one-bedroom flat with his parents Aisha Aminin and Faisal Abdullah.

The inquest heard that the parents previously complained to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) about the mould.

Following six days of evidence at Rochdale Coroners’ Court, it was concluded that he “died as a result of a severe respiratory condition caused due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment”.

The youngster’s family said after the hearing: “We cannot tell you how many health professionals we’ve cried in front of and Rochdale Boroughwide Housing staff we have pleaded to, expressing concern for the conditions ourselves and Awaab have been living in.

“We shouted out as loudly as we could, but despite making all of those efforts, every night we would be coming back to the same problem.”

Coroner Joanne Kearsley said the toddler’s death should be a “defining moment” for the housing sector and the government described the circumstances in which the youngster died as ‘unacceptable’.

Kearsley told the court: “I’m sure I am not alone in asking how does this happen? How in the UK does a two-year-old child die from exposure to mould in his home?

“The evidence from this inquest quite clearly showed that this issue is not simply a Rochdale problem. Nor is damp and mould simply a social housing problem.”

Kearsley did not find the actions of RBH or Northern Care Alliance, an NHS trust, were gross failures that could amount to “neglect”.

Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive of RBH, said the child’s death should be a “wake-up call for everyone in housing, social care and health”.

He added: “We have and will continue to learn hard lessons from this.

“We didn’t recognise the level of risk to a little boy’s health from the mould in the family’s home. We allowed a legal disrepair process, widely used in the housing sector, to get in the way of promptly tackling the mould.

“We must make sure this can never happen again.”

Following the tragedy, the government said it would “no longer stand for” landlords failing their tenants.

A government spokesperson said: “Clearly the circumstances in which he died are unacceptable, and we will no longer stand for unresponsive landlords failing in their responsibilities to tenants.”

She added: “More broadly, we also continue to deliver on our housing reforms. That will include forcing developers to pay to fix unsafe buildings, better protect the rights of tenants and the private rented sector, [and] ensure that social landlords do not put people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.”

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