Growing resignation calls after toddler left to die in mouldy flat

Calls grow for under-fire housing boss in £185,000 job to be sacked over case of toddler left to die in mould-infested flat – as it emerges he was handed a £15,000 pay rise AFTER the boy died

  • Calls for £185k-a-year housing association boss Gareth Swarbrick to resign
  • Housing Sec Michael Gove said it ‘beggars belief’ he’s not quit after death of boy
  • Awaab Ishack, 2, died after living in ‘degrading’ mould-infested in Rochdale
  • An MP suggested the landlord could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter

Calls were mounting last night for the resignation of the £185,000-a-year boss of the housing association which left a toddler to die in a mould-infested flat – as it emerged he was handed a £15,000 pay rise after the two-year-old boy’s death. 

Gareth Swarbrick, whose failure to quit over two-year-old Awaab Ishak’s avoidable death ‘beggars belief’, according to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, is clinging to his post as pressure intensifies.

The 55-year-old chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) has yet to apologise for the ‘degrading’ conditions Awaab’s family were living in. 

In the conclusion to Awaab’s death, coroner Joanne Kearsley found the cause of death was ‘chronic exposure to harmful mould’.

The coroner said RBH was not ‘proactive’ in responding to the family’s complaint, The Telegraph reports.

It has also now emerged that Mr Swarbrick was paid £170,000-a-year in 2021 – according to the housing association’s report – and received a pay rise of £15,000 the following year, taking his annual salary to £185,000 two-years after Awaab’s death. 

Awaab Ishack (pictured), 2, died after living in ‘degrading’ conditions in a mould-infested Rochdale flat

Gareth Swarbrick (pictured), 55, whose failure to quit over two-year-old Awaab Ishak’s avoidable death ‘beggars belief’, according to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, is clinging to his post as pressure intensifies

Ms Kearsley asked: ‘How in the UK in 2020 does a two-year-old die as a result of exposute to mould?’ 

In his evidence, Mr Swarbrick said: ‘We didn’t recognise the level of risk to the little boy’s health from the mould in the family’s home. We allowed a legal disrepair process, widely used in the housing sector, to get in the way of promptly tackling the mould.’

But Mr Gove yesterday accused Mr Swarbrick’s organisation of a ‘terrible dereliction of duty’.

The Housing Secretary told Parliament that the housing association’s failures were ‘rooted in prejudice’ and Awaab and his family ‘deserved better’.

One MP suggested the landlord could even be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

Tenants’ groups called for Mr Swarbrick to be sacked, branding his pay package a ‘disgusting’ reward for failure.

The damning comments came as the Housing Ombudsman for England launched an investigation into whether there had been a ‘wider failure’ at RBH.

From as early as 2017, Awaab’s parents repeatedly begged officials at RBH for help with the appalling mould problem spreading across the walls and ceilings of their flat in the Greater Manchester town.

But through a mixture of bureaucracy and communication breakdown, and ‘cultural assumptions’ about the family, who were asylum seekers from Sudan, nothing was done.

The youngster suffered increasingly severe coughing fits, and on December 21, 2020 he went into cardiac arrest and died while being transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital. Fungus was found in his blood and lungs.

Mr Swarbrick’s annual pay package, including pension contributions, has swollen from £144,000 the year before Awaab’s death to £185,000. The beleaguered executive, whose salary has enabled him to privately educate at least two of his four children, lives in a modest £270,000 semi-detached home on the outskirts of Bolton, and drives a luxury SUV.

The Housing Ombudsman for England, Richard Blakeway, said he would use new powers to interview staff at RBH directly as part of an urgent investigation.

Michael Gove (pictured) said bosses at RBH who ‘earn well in excess’ of the Prime Minister must ‘take the consequences’ of their record

In a letter to Mr Swarbrick published online, he said his team was examining three complaints about damp and mould and would look at whether they were ‘indicative of wider failure within the landlord’.

RBH currently has 108 ‘live’ complaints about damp and mould from tenants. The housing association said the figure was down from 600 in 2019.

Greater Manchester Tenants Union said: ‘The rot starts at the top – Mr Swarbrick must go.’

Mr Gove said bosses at RBH who ‘earn well in excess’ of the Prime Minister must ‘take the consequences’ of their record.

Awaab’s parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, are planning legal action over their son’s death. RBH was approached for comment.

A RBH spokesman said: ‘A conversation has taken place between Mr Swarbrick and Mr Gove. We cannot provide a further comment this time.’

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