Awaab Ishak mould death: Michael Gove says 'searching questions' need to be asked during Rochdale visit

24 November 2022, 17:41 | Updated: 17 May 2023, 09:32

Michael Gove said serious questions need to be asked
Michael Gove said serious questions need to be asked. Picture: Getty

By Chris Samuel

"Serious questions' need to be asked about a a housing association responsible for a property where a child died, housing minister Michael Gove has said after the government stripped the organisation of funding.

Awaab Ishak, 2, died in December 2020 from a serious breathing condition after prolonged exposure to mould.

As well as losing £1 million in funding for new affordable homes, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing will also not receive new contracts for new homes while an investigation takes place.

Awaab Ishak at a birthday
Awaab Ishak at a birthday. Picture: Family handout

Mr Gove said: "One of the reasons that I'm here is to work with the council and others in order to make sure that the state of housing in Rochdale can be addressed, and the state of housing across the country can be improved.

"There are people, not just on that estate but elsewhere in the borough, who are living in homes which are not really fit for human habitation.

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The housing secretary said he wanted to "work with the council and others in order to make sure that RBH is in a position to do those repairs, to make sure that people are in decent and in safe homes."

Michael Gove
Michael Gove. Picture: Getty

He added: "And, of course, it's a situation not just in Rochdale, but in other parts of the North West and indeed across the UK we do urgently need to address.

The Cabinet minister said he was 'concerned' about the way RBH has operated altogether, and said there are "searching questions that need to be asked, and that's why the regulator is looking into how RBH have operated.

Andrew Castle shares his outrage at Awaab Ishak's death

"The most important thing is making sure that people in the borough get the housing they deserve, and I'm looking forward to talking to councillors who I know, from every party, want to make sure this situation is put right.

Addressing MPs on Tuesday, the housing secretary said too many landlords had shown “defensive behaviour” when receiving complaints about poor conditions in their properties, but also admitted that the extent of dangerous conditions was so great that further funding may be required fix the problem.

Daniel Hewitt says the mould that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from is a 'typical' for families.

Labour's shadow levelling up and housing secretary, Lisa Nandy, said the government had to go further on regulation, as well as enforcement.

“After years of broken promises, the government has taken no action to strengthen rules to protect those families," she said.

"There is a political consensus on this, so there is no excuse for more delay,” she said.

“Rules to protect tenants need to be enforced, but they also need to be strengthened. We could get a decent homes standard and stronger protections for renters on to the statute book today if the government had the will to do so.

"It would be unconscionable to wait until a child dies in a private rented property before we act.”

It comes after Mr Gove told LBC that the parents of Awaab Ishak, 2, who died after prolonged exposure to mould "must have gone through hell."

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, he said he felt a sense of "sadness, almost disbelief - and then a sense of sympathy for his parents who must have been going through hell."

He said the response of the housing organisation was "lamentable."

He explained why funding was being stripped for the housing organisation responsible for the property, saying: "just do your proper job.

"You presided over a tragedy in which a two year old boy died as a result of your failure. Instead of getting more money - a reward for failure, what you should be doing is making sure your basic responsibilities are discharged effectively."

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