James O’Brien reacts to the 'utterly harrowing' death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak

16 November 2022, 13:54

'I don't think this is rare at all'

By Hannah Holland

"I don’t think this is rare at all", said James O’Brien of the conditions that led to the death of a two-year-old exposed to mould in a Rochdale flat.

After revealing that the story “broke” his heart, James O’Brien explained he couldn’t bring himself to cover the “utterly harrowing” news the day before.

Awaab Ishak died of a severe respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home in Rochdale, just days before his second birthday in December 2020.

Mr Abdullah, Awaab’s father, says he had repeatedly asked the housing association for help with mould. The coroner ruled that the housing association Rochdale Boroughwide Housing should have done more to make the house safe for Awaab.

“This is the United Kingdom”, James said, before adding: “The idea that we live in a country where the Prime Minister’s wife is as rich as Croesus, you know, the Prime Minister’s wife is from one of the richest families in the world.

“And yet, in the country that he governs, although he wasn’t in charge in 2020, a little boy can die because his home is mouldy.”

He continued: “Only last week, Conservative MPs were publicly stating that anybody from overseas who has made a home here should shut up about the conditions and never ever complain.”

READ MORE: 'This wouldn’t have happened if we were British': Parents of boy, 2, killed by mould slam 'racist' landlord

“The worst thing for society is the conditions that aren’t equal”, James explained before adding: “Unless you fear it can happen to you or unless it can happen to you, we don’t feel the same sense of urgency do we?”

“That’s why these stories are so heartbreaking because most people living in a home with the kind of mould that they had in Awaab’s house are gonna be fine.”

“…Especially if you sort of stay on top of the visual signs of it but some people are gonna get really, really ill and some people, like Awaab are gonna die.”

James said: “Here’s the thing right - I don’t think this is rare at all, I think this is a daily occurrence in housing authorities and private landlords up and down the country.

“You ring up your landlord and tell him your bathroom’s full of mould - the idea that he’s gonna send someone round to spend thousands of pounds on tanking the room or really getting to the source of the problem - it’s pie in the sky.”

READ MORE: 1.2m people in England live in unsafe social homes, LBC reveals, as coroner says toddler's death must be wake-up call

READ MORE: Housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa deems death of Awaab Ishak 'corporate manslaughter'

MP believes housing association didn't carry out repairs on the Rochdale flat the tenant went to a solicitor

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