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Awaab Ishak: Housing association boss apologises for two-year-old ‘s death – but will not resign | UK News

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.

Awaab Ishak's home
The family’s home

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.”

Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH). PIC: PA
Gareth Swarbrick

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.

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Gove summons housing chief to explain failures

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.

Peabody housing association ‘sorry for our part’ after leaving woman dead in her flat for more than two years | UK News

A housing group said it is “devastated” and “sorry for our part” in failing to realise one of its tenants had been left dead in her flat for two and a half years.

Sheila Seleoane, 58, was last heard from in August 2019, the last month she made a rent payment.

When police forced their way into her flat in Peckham in February 2022 – after neighbours noticed a balcony door swinging open following Storm Eunice – her body had to be identified by dental records.

Residents had reported the presence of maggots and flies to Peabody Group “within weeks” of the August date she had last been confirmed alive, but the housing association closed the case the month after.

“We didn’t ask the most fundamental question – is Sheila ok?” said Peabody’s chief executive, Ian McDermott.

“I am so sorry this happened,” he said. “We’ve apologised to the family. We’re deeply sorry for what happened.

“The biggest apology though I think does go to the residents of Lord’s Court. They did tell us that something was wrong.”

Six months after Ms Seleoane made her last rent payment, Peabody made an application for direct payment of Universal Credit.

The housing association has not repaid this money but has pledged to do so.

According to an independent investigation commissioned by Peabody, the COVID-19 lockdown “exacerbated the length of time the body remained undiscovered, but was not the cause of the delay”.

Peabody said that it had recorded 89 attempts to contact Ms Seleoane, but recognised these were not substantive and none were successful.

By October 2020 the housing association had contacted the Metropolitan Police to perform a welfare check on Ms Seleoane and an officer incorrectly told them she was safe and well.

The force said that the staff member had since left the force but would have faced a professional standards enquiry if they had still been employed.

A coroner’s inquest this week found that the police and Peabody had missed numerous opportunities to discover her body.

Dr Julian Morris delivered an open verdict and said: “To lie undetected for in all likelihood over two years is difficult to fathom in 2022.”