Gove has no ‘confidence’ in housing association in wake of Awaab Ishak’s death


Michael Gove does not have “confidence” in the leadership of a housing association that owned the flat where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to mould.The Housing Secretary on Thursday had an “unsatisfactory” meeting with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), which failed to explain how it would ensure tenants’ safety, a Government source said.Mr Gove also committed to an “Awaab’s law” that would improve the experiences of those living with mould and damp in their properties, lawyers for Awaab’s family said.(RBH) yet again failed to answer basic questions about their operations and how they will ensure that tenants are safe in their homesAwaab died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in a one-bedroom housing association flat in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.Read MoreHis parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, repeatedly complained about the mould.Mr Gove blocked £1 million in funding RBH was due to receive to build new homes, and threatened “further action” unless it proves it is a responsible landlord.After his talks with RBH in Rochdale, a Government source said: “The meeting with RBH was unsatisfactory.“They yet again failed to answer basic questions about their operations and how they will ensure that tenants are safe in their homes.“The Secretary of State does not have confidence in the leadership of RBH and will continue to pay very close attention to their work, in close co-operation with the regulator.“He will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”The Cabinet minister also had a “productive” meeting with Awaab’s family, lawyers said.“The family are pushing for the implementation of an Awaab’s law to ensure that no other family go through what they have been through,” lawyer Christian Weaver said.“Awaab’s law would significantly improve the experiences of those living with mould and damp in their properties, and is therefore crucial. We are pleased that the Secretary of State has provided his support for an Awaab’s law.”Mr Gove will return to Rochdale to meet the family in six months’ time, Mr Weaver said.The Housing Secretary earlier vowed to strip other failing landlords of funding as he warned at least tens of thousands of homes are unsafe because of damp and mould.“I fear it’s the case that there are tens of thousands of properties that are not in the state that they should be,” he told BBC Breakfast.Asked if tens of thousands is correct, he said: “Yes, at least.“We know there are a significant number of properties, some of which were built in the ’60s and ’70s and are in poor conditions, but some of which have been poorly maintained that simply need to be properly repaired and properly maintained.”If the penny has dropped, if the organisation is ready to learn appropriate lessons to improve and there are signs they fully appreciate the need to improve, we will work with themGareth Swarbrick was removed as RBH’s chief executive following the highly-critical inquest into Awaab’s death.Asked if the organisation should still be operating at all, Mr Gove said: “If the penny has dropped, if the organisation is ready to learn appropriate lessons to improve and there are signs they fully appreciate the need to improve, we will work with them, and indeed with Rochdale Council, in order to make improvements.”The Housing Secretary awarded a share of a £14 million pot for seven areas with high numbers of poor, privately rented homes to crack down on rogue landlords, including Greater Manchester, Leeds and Cornwall.Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that protections for private renters will be in his much-delayed Renters’ Reform Bill coming “in the next calendar year”.