Michael Gove has called on councils to “urgently assess” their housing conditions following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from prolonged mould exposure.
The Levelling Up Secretary wrote in a letter to council leaders and social housing providers that the case has “rightfully shocked people across the country” and called it “abhorrent that anyone should have to live in such conditions”.
Mr Gove said that councils should pay “particular focus on issues of damp and mould”.
“I am putting housing providers on notice, I will take whatever action is required to improve standards across the country and ensure tenants’ voices are heard,” he said.
Young Awaab died as a result of a severe respiratory condition in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, in December 2020. His father, Faisal Abdullah, had previously complained to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing about the mould on multiple occasions, a coroner’s court was told.
Awaab’s parents have called for a new law to be implemented in their son’s name, which would require landlords to investigate the causes of damp and mould within 14 days of complaints being made.
Mr Gove added: “Everyone has the right to feel safe in their homes, and the death of a child like Awaab Ishak must never be allowed to happen again.”
It comes after the removal of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) chief executive Gareth Swarbrick from his post following significant pressure for him to resign.
Mr Swarbrick had initially refused to resign as chief executive at RBH, and the board had said they were committed to supporting his leadership.
But, in a statement released on Saturday, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing 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.”
Awaab’s family lawyer Christian Weaver said: “The family were deeply saddened that following this inquest, RBH did nothing but express their confidence in Gareth Swarbrick, despite in the court room doing everything to indicate that significant changes would be made.”
Awaab’s parents Aisha Amin and Faisal Abdhullah said the landlord failed to grasp “the gravity of the situation”.
RBH said that “under new leadership” they will “continue to drive further improvements to our homes and to our communications with tenants.”
“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,” they said.