Housing boss sacked after tragic death of tot exposed to black mould

The head of a social housing trust which failed two-year-old Awaab Ishak has been sacked amid mounting pressure.

Two-year-old Awaab died as a result of exposure to black mould in his home. 

Chief executive Gareth Swarbrick, who on Thursday issued a statement refusing to quit, was fired yesterday (Saturday) from his £157,000 a year job by the board of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.

The organisation said: “The board has taken the decision to remove Gareth Swarbrick from his post as chief executive of RBH with immediate effect," adding: "We will now work to appoint an external interim chief executive.”

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Tenants’ representatives are calling for a charge of corporate manslaughter to be brought against the housing association.

On Tuesday a coroner ruled that prolonged exposure to persistent black mould on the walls of the family’s rented home were a cause of the infant’s death in 2020 and that the landlord had repeatedly failed to fix it.

Awaab’s family lawyer, Christian Weaver, said: “The family were deeply saddened that following this inquest, RBH did nothing but express their confidence in… Gareth Swarbrick, despite in the courtroom doing everything to indicate that significant changes would be made.”

He added: “Much more needs to be done,” and called for the government to create Awaab’s Law “to make sure no other child, or anyone else, dies due to mould in their home”.

Senior coroner Joanne Kearsley had ruled that the youngster died from exposure to mould in the property and his death should be a “defining moment”.

Awaab’s father had been told to “paint over it”, and the family, originally from Sudan, claimed they were the victims of racial prejudice.

It was confirmed that Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove had written to every English council leader and social housing provider as he warned that deaths like Awaab's must “never be allowed to happen again”.

Swarbrick refused to stand down on Thursday, and was given a vote of confidence by Alison Tumilty, chairman of the housing association which operates more than 12,000 homes.

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On Friday, the Rochdale MP, Labour’s Tony Lloyd, said Awaab’s death was “preventable and unforgivable” and that the chief executive “clinging to his job is not OK”.

Yesterday (Saturday), a statement from the RBH board said: “Our original instincts were for Gareth to stay on to see the organisation through this difficult period and to make the necessary changes, but we all recognise that this is no longer tenable.”

RBH added: “We are committed to sharing what we have learned about the impact to health of damp, condensation and mould with the social housing sector, and to supporting sector-wide changes."

It went on to say: “As an organisation we are deeply sorry for the death of Awaab and devastated that it happened in one of our homes," adding: "We must ensure this can never happen again."


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