Awaab Ishak paid the “ultimate price for corporate neglect by his landlord”, an activist has claimed, after it was revealed the toddler died from mould in his social housing flat. Social housing activist Kwajo Twenebao told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that the case of young Awaab was “absolutely horrific and tragic” but went on to say that it was not rare for such social housing conditions to be in place. His comments come as housing secretary Michael Gove wrote to every English council leader and social housing provider to warn that deaths like that of Awaab must “never be allowed to happen again”. Awaab’s family had first raised the issue of mould in their flat in 2017 but it had still not been fixed by the time of the toddler’s death in 2020.
Mr Twenebao said: “It is absolutely horrific and I have been campaigning for a year to avoid a situation just like this.
“What we have seen tragically with the case of Awaab is that he has paid the ultimate price for corporate neglect by his landlord.”
Asked if he was surprised, he said: “No, I cannot say I am. It is an absolutely tragic case but from what I have seen across the country in terms of tenants living under social housing landlords, whether that be social housing association or local authority, is often they are living in similar cases.
“In some cases, even worse conditions for decades. I spoke to one tenant who reached out to me for help after complaining for 27 years. That’s longer than I have been alive yet they were not listened to.”
Mr Gove wrote a letter to all local authority chief executives in England, as well as a separate letter to all social housing providers.
Earlier this week he said it “beggars belief” that Gareth Swarbrick, the chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), was still in his job. Mr Swabrick was removed from his position on Saturday.
In the latter letter, Mr Gove wrote that the country needed to “raise the bar dramatically” on the quality of social housing and “empower tenants” to ensure “their voices are truly heard”.
He said housing providers should carry out assessments of damp and mould in their properties, as well as any action that may need to be taken to tackle the issue.
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“That is why I am writing to you to request you do everything in your power to prioritise the improvement of housing conditions for the millions of private and social tenants, in line with existing duties in the Housing Act 2004.
“This becomes ever more urgent as we go into winter with a cost-of-living and energy crisis, which may exacerbate damp and mould conditions in some homes.”
The letter directs local councils to supply his department with an assessment of damp and mould issues affecting their privately rented properties, as well as details of how it is being tackled. Councils have also been asked to list the number of civil penalty notices and successful prosecutions pursued in relation to dangerous damp and mould.
The housing secretary, who is promising that the Government’s Social Housing (Regulation) Bill will bring tougher regulation to the sector, said he would “stand up for tenants”.
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