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Housing chiefs admit failures after reporter’s probe into toddler’s death

Housing bosses have admitted they should have done more to tackle mould problems exposed by a regional journalist at a tragic toddler’s home.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing has now accepted its actions were “inappropriate” during an inquest into the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak.

HTFP reported in August how Manchester Evening News journalist Stephen Topping had uncovered a string of cases of children who had fallen seriously ill in similar housing conditions on Rochdale’s Freehold estate, run by RBH, where Awaab lived with his family prior to his death in December 2020.

The Rochdale Observer, the MEN’s Reach plc sister weekly, splashed on the inquest yesterday.

The Rochdale Observer, the MEN's Reach plc sister weekly, splashed on the inquest yesterday

The Rochdale Observer, the MEN’s Reach plc sister weekly, splashed on the inquest yesterday

The original investigation came about after Stephen had spent the previous two months trying to find Awaab’s family after attending a pre-inquest review.

Home Office pathologist Dr Philip Lumb told Rochdale Coroners Court on Monday that mould was the “most plausible, or only explanation” for Awaab’s fatal breathing conditions, according to the MEN.

A statement submitted by RBH’s barrister Malcolm Galloway and signed by Nadhia Khan, the housing association’s director of customer and community, has also been read to the court.

It noted the findings of a report compiled in July 2020, following a disrepair claim filed on behalf of Awaab’s father Faisal Abdullah, concluded at the time that the majority of the mould was caused by “lifestyle and bathing habits”.

The statement read: “RBH accept that its approach was inappropriate and it should have taken responsibility for the mould issues and undertaken a more proactive response.”

It added: “It is accepted that RBH should have undertaken remedial works having found the mould in its inspection of the property on 14 July 2020.

“It is accepted that no remedial works were undertaken by RBH after 14 July 2020, and before Awaab’s death on 21 December 2020.”

Stephen’s enquiries around the Freehold estate have exposed how at least six other households have suffered repeated problems with damp and mould – including three families who claim that their children were hospitalised with breathing difficulties between 2014 and 2020.

He knocked on all 36 doors on the block where Awaab lived and died, as well as dozens more on other blocks on the estate, as part of his investigation.

Following the probe, RBH told the MEN its team would inspect every one of the 376 homes on the estate.

The inquest continues.