Michael Gove vows to enact law change after Manchester Evening News campaign

A senior government minister has vowed to act on a Manchester Evening News campaign triggered by the tragic death of a two-year-old killed by mould and damp in his flat.

Michael Gove, secretary of stare for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, pledged to act on implementing ‘Awaab’s Law’ following a visit to Greater Manchester this week.

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.

Earlier this month, an inquest heard Awaab died after prolonged exposure to damp and mould at his Rochdale home.

The tragic case had received widespread national media coverage in recent weeks, and also shone on a spotlight on the social housing landlord responsible for conditions at Awaab’s family flat in Rochdale.

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’.

Last week, the MEN launched its campaign for Awaab’s Law, working with housing charity Shelter.

It called for politicians to urgently back the Social Housing Regulation Bill currently going through Parliament. If approved it would bring back regulation on consumer standards for social housing.

The MEN campaign called 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.

More than 100,000 people have since signed the petition, and this week Mr Gove vowed to act.

He told the MEN: “We’re bringing forward legislation — the social housing regulation bill — which will be holding all landlords to account and I talked to Awaab’s legal team about how we can make sure that legislation is as strong as possible so that Awaab’s memory is properly honoured.

“”I have to praise the Manchester Evening News for shining a light on the condition of people who are living in homes that are not fit for human habitation. It’s been campaigning journalism by a great newspaper and Awaab’s Law has attracted, thanks to your championing and thanks to Awaab’s legal team, the support of tens of thousands of people.

“I’ve asked my team to look now at the specific recommendations of Awaab’s Law to see if we can bring it into force as soon as possible. You’ll appreciate that what we need to do, and I explained it to Awaab’s lawyers, is just make sure that the specific changes requested actually bring about the improvements that we all want to see.

“”I’m not looking to delay, I just want to make sure that the spirit of Awaab’s Law and where possible the letter of Awaab’s Law is written into our statute book as quickly as possible. We’re looking at exactly how we can do that.

“As everyone knows, the process of law-making and drafting and so on, sometimes isn’t as quick as we would like it to be. But coming here today, talking to Awaab’s family and speaking to others who are in similar conditions, only reinforces the urgency of acting.”

Sarah Lester, editor of the Manchester Evening News, told readers thatthe housing conditions Awaab lived in were far from unique.

In her weekly newsletter to readers, Sarah said: “Although RBH is in the spotlight in this case there are estates across Greater Manchester where damp and mould is rife. This week our inbox has been full of pictures and videos from people who are suffering in poor housing.

“What happened to Awaab raises so many fundamental questions — about social housing, inequality and about how we care about the most vulnerable in our society.

“At the Manchester Evening News we want to try and do something to support other families to try and make sure this can never happen again.”

The MEN is also urging people to continue signing the petition.

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