Housing estate management said mould was ‘acceptable’ in refugee housing where child died

Housing estate management said mould was ‘acceptable’ in refugee housing where child died

A housing estate outside of Manchester, the site of the death of a child after mould exposure, has been found to have extensive management concerns, including prejudices and “lazy assumptions” about the asylum seekers who lived there.

The Housing Ombudsman has released its report following a special investigation after the death of Awaab Ishak, which revealed “wholly unacceptable” attitudes among their staff.

Rochdale Borough Housing has been previously criticised over their “incorrect assumptions” regarding the cause of damp and the resulting mould in the flat where Awaab lived. They have also come under fire for their treatment of his family.

The inquest into Awaab’s death showed that he died from a respiratory condition caused by the mould at the social housing flat where he lived, and following the result of the inquest, a broader investigation was launched by the ombudsman, who noted that the issues of mould and damp could be more widespread than first thought in Britain’s social housing.

Richard Blakeway, the Ombudsman, urged the social housing sector to “consider whether they also need to turn over the stone and do a deep dive into their culture”.

During the investigation into the state of social housing, it was found that a staff member at RBH told the ombudsman that the residents had complained about mould, but a manager at the company had said it was “ok and acceptable”.

The report said: “We also received a report from former staff that ‘residents complained about mold [sic] and living conditions… regularly… raised it with her manager… was told it’s ok and acceptable. Most of residents were refugees and she was told they are lucky they have [a] Roof over head’.”

“The weakness in policies, repeated failures and failure to learn from complaints has led us to conclude there was wider service failure by the landlord in areas other than its response to damp and mould, including record keeping and communication.

“Our investigation found reoccurring instances of residents being treated in dismissive, inappropriate or unsympathetic ways. In some instances, the language used was derogatory.

“It is highly unlikely that this endemic behaviour of ‘othering’ is isolated to a single landlord and the social housing sector should consider whether they also need to turn over the stone and do a deep dive into their culture and whether they are living their social purpose.”

RBH described the report’s findings as “sobering but not unexpected” and said there had been “significant learning from the tragic death of Awaab Ishak”.

In a statement, it said it “recognised that too often damp and mould was not seen as a serious issue and was attributed to a resident’s lifestyle”.

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