Manchester Evening News launches campaign for ‘Awaab’s Law’ housing reform in memory of tragic toddler
The Manchester Evening News has launched a campaign demanding a law change to prevent the repeat of the death of two year old boy living in sub-standard housing.
The M.E.N first shone a light on the horrific events which led to the death of Awaab Ishak following a six-week investigation in the summer.
The toddler’s young lungs had been exposed to rancid damp and mould. His parents had been complaining about the conditions they were living in, even before their little boy was born.
This week, an inquest heard Awaab died after prolonged exposure to damp and mould at his Rochdale home.
Coroner Joanne Kearsley said the death of Awaab should be a ‘defining moment’ for the housing sector in how it deals an issue affecting homes across the country. The coroner concluded Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) — which owns and manages the Freehold estate where Awaab lived — should have carried out repairs on the property between July and December 2020 when it knew about the mould.
She also criticised the advice that was given to Awaab’s father, Faisal Abdullah, when he first complained about the problem in autumn 2017 to ‘paint over the mould’.
“Awaab Ishak died as a result of a severe respiratory condition caused due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment. Action to treat and prevent the mould was not taken. His severe respiratory condition led to Awaab going into respiratory arrest.”
Following the conclusion, a statement was read outside the court on behalf of Awaab’s father Faisal Abdullah, who came to the UK from Sudan as an asylum seeker in 2015, and his wife Aisha Amin, who joined him in 2018. The statement said: “The past two years have been gruelling.
“When Awaab died, our lives changed forever. Today, two years on, the coroner has found that our little boy’s prolonged exposure to mould led entirely to his death.
“We cannot tell you how many health professionals we’ve cried in front and RBH staff we have pleaded to expressing concern for the conditions ourselves and Awaab have been living in. We shouted out as loudly as we could, but despite making all of those efforts, every night we would be coming back to the same problem. Nothing was changing.”
In addition to bringing the tragic case to national attention, the MEN has now teamed up with housing charity Shelter to launch a campaign for Awaab’s Law.
The MEN told readers: “It was a tragedy that could and should have been prevented. That’s why the Manchester Evening News and Shelter are campaigning for a change in the law that would compel housing associations not to allow any other child, or anyone else, to suffer in damp and mouldy social housing.
“The Social Housing Regulation Bill is currently going through Parliament, and if approved it would bring back regulation on consumer standards for social housing. The M.E.N. calls on all MPs and peers to support Bill and strengthen it, by including Ofsted-style inspections at short notice and increased professionalisation of housing management to improve the experience of tenants, including those living with damp and mould.”
Speaking to the MEN’s Mancunian Way newsletter, reporter Steven Topping, who has covered Awaab’s tragic story throughout, said: “There is a sense of anger among residents I’ve spoken to about how Awaab’s death could be allowed to happen on their estate.
“The case shows us a lot about how people in our society don’t get their voices heard no matter how loud they shout — and that needs to change.”