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Ex-children’s commissioner Anne Longfield warns more families face ‘awful living conditions’ like Awaab Ishak | UK News

The former children’s commissioner for England has warned of families across the country facing “awful conditions” in their social housing, following the death of Awaab Ishak.

The two-year-old died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in his home, managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH).

There has been an outpouring of emotion after the toddler’s death, and anger from many quarters over the poor state of the home he and his family were forced to live in – leading to RBH’s chief executive being sacked.

But Anne Longfield, who until 2021 worked as the commissioner with the role of protecting the rights of children, said it was “undoubtedly the case” that other children would find themselves in the same situation.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, she said: “I think we should be shocked by this but we should be really angry too.

“These are absolutely pointless harms and needless harms, they can be prevented, that needs to be the focus now.”

She said she had spoken to families in similar circumstances, adding: “We are talking about cramped conditions but [also] cold, mould, rat infestations, places which, as the coroner said in Awaab’s case, really are not fit for human habitation.”

Ms Longfield praised Housing Secretary Michael Gove for his willingness to focus on the issue, after he wrote to every English council leader and social housing provider to put them “on notice” over the “abhorrent” conditions that killed Awaab.

Awaab Ishak
Image:
Awaab Ishak died in 2020 because of the mould in his social housing

But she said: “My message to him would be to make this a mission. It is in plain view, it is in front of us, it is one of those things that compounds so many social problems around children growing up in poverty.

“But it needs that determination and leadership [to fix it].”

Cost of living: People fear ‘awful winter’ as bills continue to rise | UK News

If people are struggling to pay their bills now – during a hot summer – how much worse will it be in the winter when homes need to be heated?

From the stories Sky News viewers have been telling, it is clear that as soon as temperatures begin to drop, the crisis will worsen significantly.

After bills, one viewer said he and his partner are left with “£3 for three weeks to live on”.

Another said he and his family are reducing the amount of food they buy, not travelling to see family members, and limiting the children to one hour on the TV or computer.

Keith Ashworth, 66, from Nottingham, is fuelling his years old Land Rover with vegetable oil because diesel is so expensive.

“I was hoping to go part-time fairly soon – but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m working really just to make ends meet,” he said.

At the end of the month, there is “very little left – sometimes nothing left”.

He and his husband Daryl are collecting “scraps of wood” to use in their wood burner in the winter and considering selling the static caravan they own in the Peak District where they go for a break.

“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel – it’s just going up and up and up,” Keith added.

Daryl and Keith Ashworth say they are 'counting the pennies'
Image:
Daryl and Keith Ashworth are ‘counting the pennies’

Tracey Blanc, from Clitheroe, emailed about how her energy costs had risen ten-fold in a month. She sent a copy of her bill showing £58 was taken by direct debit on 1 July, while on 1 August it was £611.

Viewer Melanie texted about her hours at work, which had been reduced, and said as she was also unable to find a new lodger, she had ended up draining her savings.

She is now working three jobs, including nights and weekends.

“It’s going to be an awful winter,” Susan Pilkington said.

‘I’ve never been more afraid in my life’

A carer who has been unable to work for eight years, Susan, said she has “never been more afraid in (her) life”.

Her energy bills have “doubled” and she has asked her supplier to remove her gas meter because she “can’t afford the standing charge never mind the gas itself”.

Read more:
Sixteen million people cut back on food and essentials
Child poverty in key worker households is increasing, study suggests

Viewer Simon texted to say he wants to take his children on holiday, but only has 52p left in his account.

Kev, 50, texted to say he lives alone in a one-bedroom flat and claims Universal Credit.

“I’ve had to stop paying my water bill and TV licence just to survive,” he said.

“All my money is for rent and electricity bill.”

Glenn took aim at fuel and utility companies making large profits, saying the cost of living crisis is being driven by “greed and bonuses”.

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Julie Martinez emailed to say she works as a health care assistant on a psychiatric ward doing 13-hour shifts and is getting into debt on her credit card for using the money to pay for her petrol to get to work.

“I have no money left over at the end of the month, and I am struggling to feed myself,” she said.

“I feed my dog before I feed me.

“I feel at breaking point. Something has to give or people are going to end up homeless.”