Housing secretary Michael Gove has launched an investigation into mould-infested properties let by housing providers and councils after a two-year-old died from severe respiratory problems.
Awaab Ishak died with fungus in his blood and lungs after being exposed to harmful mould in December 2020 at his parent’s flat in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
Gove said: “The tragic death of Awaab Ishak has rightly shocked people across the country.
“This is an appalling case of the utmost gravity and it is abhorrent that anyone should have to live in such conditions in Britain today. Today I am taking further action to stand up for tenants.
“Alongside delivering new laws on tougher social housing regulation, I am directing all councils across England to make an urgent assessment of housing conditions for tenants in their area with particular focus on issues of damp and mould, and enforcement action being taken.
“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.
“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.”
Prior to the child’s death the family repeatedly contacted the association about the conditions of the property, but the association blamed it on “family lifestyle”.
Instead the infant’s father was told to “paint over” the mould, while the family, being from Sudan originally, said they were faced with racial prejudice.
The bathroom had no window, the fan didn’t work effectively and the window from the kitchen, which had no mechanical ventilation, opened onto a communal hallway.
Gareth Swarbrick, the head of the housing association that let the flat in question, was sacked from the £185,000 a year role on Saturday, following pressure from the child’s family, ministers and MPs.
Swarbrick had refused to leave Rochdale Boroughwide Housing voluntarily, but the board agreed that his position was “no longer tenable”. The association said it was “deeply sorry” for the events, adding it was “devastated that it happened in one of our homes”.
The association added: “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.”