What happened to Awaab Ishak?

The two-year-old died of a cardiac arrest after prolonged exposure to mould in his home

Awaab Ishak
Awaab Ishak's family had reported the mould issue numerous times
(Image credit: Family Handout)

The death of a toddler was caused by “prolonged exposure” to mould in his home, a coroner has ruled.

Two-year-old Awaab Ishak died of cardiac arrest in December 2020 due to a respiratory condition caused by the “extensive” mould in his family’s one-bedroom flat in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The “landmark inquest” heard Awaab had “consistently suffered from cold and respiratory problems” throughout his life, said The Times.

His father, Faisal Abdullah, first raised the mould issue with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) in 2017, but no action was taken. He raised the issue again and began legal proceedings to deal with it in 2020, but RBH refused to take action until the legal complaint was settled.

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A surveyor at Rochdale Council who visited the flat described its condition as “unfit for human habitation”. The coroner said that ventilation at the home was “not effective” and there was no evidence the cause of the mould was because of “excessive” ways of living by the family, as RBH had claimed.

Following the inquest, the “political blame game began”, said the Daily Mail, as the Housing Secretary Michael Gove “lashed out” at the head of RBH, Gareth Swarbrick. Gove has “summoned” Swarbrick to a meeting, said ITV News, and he described the toddler’s death as an “unacceptable tragedy”, adding that it “beggars belief that this guy is still in office”.

Swarbrick was warned not to “blame a lack of government money” for the failing, the Daily Mail said. The RBH chief executive earned £170,000 in 2020/2021, rising to £185,000 in 2021/2022, housing association documents show. Those “revelations have prompted criticism”, said ITV News, with Gove accusing him of “hiding behind procedure”.

Mr Abdullah said his family had been left feeling “absolutely worthless” because of their treatment by RBH, and accused the housing association of discrimination.

The coroner concluded that the case should be a “wake-up call for everyone in housing”, adding the issue is “not simply a Rochdale problem”.

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