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Reporter’s law-changing investigation nominated for national award

A regional daily journalist whose work sparked the introduction of new legislation has been nominated for a national award.

Manchester Evening News reporter Stephen Topping has been nominated for the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils.

Stephen’s nomination comes after his search for the family of dead toddler Awaab Ishak’s family uncovered a string of cases of children who have fallen seriously ill in similar housing conditions in Rochdale.

His investigation prompted the MEN to call for the introduction of ‘Awaab’s Law’, which would compel housing associations not to allow any other child, or anyone else, to live in the kind of uninhabitable conditions suffered by the toddler.

How the MEN covered the case

How the MEN covered the case

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove subsequently backed the campaign and praised Stephen’s work on the issue, which won the MEN the Scoop of the Year prize at this year’s Regional Press Awards.

For the latest prize, he will face competition from journalists working for the BBC, The Observer, The Guardian, ITV, the i and The Economist.

Stephen told HTFP: “I’m honoured to have been nominated for the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils alongside some incredible journalists.

“It’s almost a year since I started work on the Awaab Ishak story and I’ve been amazed by the impact it has had so far, with Awaab’s Law close to being added to the statute books.

“Since running the initial investigation last summer we have been contacted by many other tenants living in harmful conditions, and our work on the issue is certainly not over yet.

“It has been a privilege to campaign on the issue in Awaab’s memory and our thoughts at the MEN remain with his family.”

The winner will be announced at a ceremony to be held in London on 22 June.

Ed Thomas, 2023 judge and 2022 winner of The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils, said: “This year’s shortlist for exposing Britain’s Social Evil’s is testament to fearless reporting crafted with care and compassion.

“All the entries shine a light in the darkest of places, giving a voice to the most vulnerable of people in our society, failed by institutions and struggling to be heard.

“In the tradition of Orwell, this is journalism that compels us to look again, and ask searching questions about the reality of life for so many in Britain today.”