Housing bosses warned standards must improve in crackdown after little Awaab’s death

Housing groups have been “put on notice” after a toddler died because he lived in mould-ridden flat.

And a former children’s commissioner says it is “undoubtedly the case” that more children are enduring conditions like those which killed two-year-old Awaab Ishak.

The little boy died two years ago from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his family’s flat.

At his inquest last week, the coroner said: “I’m sure I’m not alone in having thought, ‘How does this happen? How, in the UK in 2020, does a two year-old child die from exposure to mould in his home?’ ”

Awaab’s family, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, first raised the issue of mould in 2017 but it had not been fixed by the time of his death in 2020.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing’s chief executive Gareth Swarbrick, who had been in charge of the housing association since 2008, had refused to quit over the scandal but was sacked on Saturday.

Now Michael Gove, the housing secretary, has written to every English council leader and all social housing providers, saying the country needs to “raise the bar dramatically” on the quality of social housing.

In his letter he said: “Where people complain about damp and mould, you must listen; where you find them, you must take prompt action. To keep tenants safe, you must not hide behind legal process.”

He added: “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.”

Anne Longfield, former children’s commissioner for England, yesterday said more children are living in conditions similar to those which killed Awaab.

She said: “I think that’s undoubtedly the case from everything we know, everything we hear from those that are working on the front line, everything we see on our screens.

“I think we should be shocked by this but we should be really angry too – these are absolutely pointless harms and needless harms – they can be prevented.”

Social housing activist Kwajo Tweneboa has said it was “an insult and a disgrace” that the chief executive of RBH had refused to resign over the death of Awaab Ishak.

He said: “I don’t think we’re being tough enough with bad landlords.

“I think to avoid cases like this we honestly need criminal charges now.”