Social owners to demand qualifications after Awaab Ishak’s death

The government is introducing reforms in response to the death of Awaab Ishak (Photos: MEN/PA)

Social housing managers will need to gain qualifications to avoid a repeat of tragedies such as the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in a musty flat.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove announced the changes after acknowledging that residents of social housing were being “inexcusably let down”.

The cabinet minister said the move would “raise the bar” after the child’s death.

Awaab died in December 2020 of a respiratory problem caused by mold at his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

A two-year-old boy had a continuous cough and was unable to breathe through his nose for the last few weeks of his life in an apartment.

Awaab Ishak died just over a week after his second birthday (Photo: MEN Media)

In response to his death, ministers proposed that landlords have to investigate and fix damp and mold in social housing within strict time limits under what would be known as the Awaab Law.

In addition to these reforms, Gove on Sunday announced new rules that will mean that around 25,000 managers across the sector must have an adequate level of qualification in housing management.

Managers must have a qualification that comes from a provider regulated by the exams regulator Ofqual and that is equivalent to a level 4 or 5 certificate or diploma in housing.

Alternatively, they can have a charter degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing.

The changes will be made through amendments to the Social Housing Bill (Regulation) in accordance with the Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities.

This will put legal pressure on landlords to investigate and fix damp and mold in social housing within strict timeframes.

A two-year-old boy had a continuous cough and was unable to breathe through his nose for the last few weeks of his life in an apartment.

The shocking mold inside the family’s apartment (Image: MEN Media)

Any owner who fails to comply with these new rules risks being fined.

The social housing regulator will also have strict new powers, allowing it to enter properties with just 48 hours’ notice and make emergency repairs with landlords who foot the bill.

Employees believe the new requirements will professionalize and drive the ‘needed culture change’ in the industry.

The bill is the latest step in response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, with the Fire Safety Act enacted and the Building Safety Act passed last year.

Mr. Gove said: ‘The Grenfell Tower tragedy and, more recently, the death of Awaab Ishak have shown the devastating consequences of residents being inexcusably let down by underperforming landlords who consistently fail to listen to them.

“We know that many residents of social housing are not getting the service or respect they deserve.

‘The changes we are making today will ensure that social housing managers across the country have the right skills and experience to deliver excellent service and raise standards in all sectors.’

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Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Gavin Smart, said: ‘We believe that housing professionals should do everything they can to ensure that tenants and residents have access to good quality, affordable housing; that they are treated with dignity and respect; and that their voices and views are heard and taken into account in decisions that affect them.’

Grenfell United, a group of survivors and bereaved families of victims of the west tower fire in London that claimed 72 lives, said: ‘For six years, we have worked tirelessly to hold the government accountable for shifting social housing to tenants across the country. .

‘We never give up. We advocate professionalization and robust regulation to ensure residents are treated with respect and humanity.

‘Although there is a long way to go, we welcome the amendment. We believe this will be part of the legacy of positive change and make a significant difference for social housing tenants.’

What happened to Awaab Ishak?

Two-year-old Awaab Ishak died in December 2020 of a respiratory problem caused by mold in the one-bedroom apartment where he lived with his parents in Rochdale.

His father, Faisal Abdullah, had previously complained to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) about the mold.

When he first reported it in 2017, he was told to paint it.

In June 2020, Abdullah instructed lawyers and started a complaint about the recurring problem, but the policy meant that no repairs would be made until a settlement was reached, the inquiry heard.

A health visitor also contacted RBH to raise the issue in July 2020 and an inspection found mold in the kitchen, bathroom and closet in one bedroom, which needed treatment.

Mrs. Kearsley said the mold was due to “normal activities of daily living” and a lack of effective ventilation.

She said: ‘I think in fact no action was taken and from July 2020 to December 2020 Awaab continued to have chronic exposure to harmful fungi.’

Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Center on 19 December with shortness of breath and transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital before being discharged, the court heard.

The coroner said the family should have been told to call an ambulance or take him directly to Royal Oldham Hospital if he had any further difficulties.

Awaab deteriorated the next day and his parents were advised by the Community Children’s Nursing Team to take him back to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre.

He went into respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest while being transferred to Oldham, where he died.

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