The chief executive of the housing association that oversaw the home so mould-ridden it led to the death of a two-year-old has apologised – but will not resign.
Gareth Swarbrick, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) chief executive, said “no apology will ever be enough” for the death of Awaab Ishak, but he said conversation around his position had “begun to overshadow” the issue.
So, in a statement, he confirmed: “Having spoken to the board, I can confirm that I will not be resigning.
“They have given me their full backing and trust to continue to oversee the improvements and changes needed within RBH.”
Awaab died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in the one-bedroom flat where he lived with his parents in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
The inquest into the toddler’s death concluded the property he lived in was exposed to “extensive” mould for “some considerable time”.
Politicians have said the death of the two-year-old should be a “catalyst for change in housing standards”.
Mr Swarbrick said he had spoken to Housing Secretary Michael Gove to discuss Awaab and the “issues we face in social housing”.
The minister had summoned him to explain the failures that led to boy’s death.
Mr Swarbrick went on: “I want to start by saying how sorry I am to Awaab’s family for their loss – no apology will ever be enough.
“We back the government’s commitment to strengthen the Decent Homes Standard and the importance of the tenant’s voice, which will be reinforced by the Social Housing Regulation Bill.”
He said the Association had made a “raft of changes” since Awaab’s death, including changing its disrepair policy, so work to tenants’ homes would not be held up by a legal process.
They have “better connected IT systems” and have introduced mandatory training on damp and mould, as well as improvements for dealing with tenants where English is not their first language.
“We agree with the coroner that the tragic death of Awaab will be, and should be, a defining moment for the whole housing sector,” he added.
Alison Tumilty, RBH’s board chair, admitted mistakes had been made, and they had “let down” Awaad’s parents Faisal and Aisha
“Having spoken to the board, I can confirm that we have full confidence in Gareth’s leadership. He has the trust of the board. He has extensive knowledge of the sector and the communities of Rochdale.
“Together, we will work to restore the trust of the people of Rochdale and demonstrate that we are a mutual landlord that cares, and cares deeply about our tenants.
“Rochdale Boroughwide Housing is committed to do better, and we will do better.”
The housing ombudsman Richard Blakeway has said he will launch an investigation into more complaints about mould in homes in Rochdale after an inquest into Awaab’s death.