Michael Gove does not “trust” the management of a housing association which owned the flat where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from exposure to mould, a government source has said.
The housing secretary met with representatives of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) on Thursday in what the source describes as an ‘unsatisfactory meeting’ in which the association failed to adequately explain how it intends to keep residents safe. tenants.
“The meeting with RBH was not satisfactory,” the government source said.
“They have once again failed to answer basic questions about their operations and how they will ensure tenants are safe in their homes.
“The Secretary of State has no confidence in the management of RBH, and will continue to pay very close attention to their work, working closely with the regulator.
“He will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”
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Last week a the coroner ruled that Awaab, two, died of a respiratory illness caused by mold in a T2 in December 2020 managed by the RBH association.
The housing body admitted it was ‘seriously mistaken’ and said it had started taking ‘immediate action’.
Awaab’s parents, originally from Sudan, had repeatedly complained about mould.
His family accused the housing association of racism, saying there was ‘no doubt’ they had been ‘treated in this way’ because they were not from the UK.
The toddler’s death has sparked anger at the poor condition of the house he and his family have been forced to live in – leading to RBH chief executive Gareth Swarbrick sacked.
Earlier today, the Housing Secretary announced he had blocked £1m funding RBH was to receive to build new homes.
Mr Gove said: ‘If you can’t even properly manage the houses you’re currently responsible for, you certainly can’t build new houses.’
RBH’s board of directors said in a statement: “We have again acknowledged that we were wrong and how deeply sorry we are for the loss of Awaab and know that our words would not take away the pain felt by his family.
“We explained to the Secretary of State that we welcome the impartial review the regulator will provide and look forward to working more closely with all parties over the coming months.
“We are absolutely focused on improving the quality of our existing homes and improving all operational areas where we have previously underperformed.
“Our immediate priority is to maintain the stability of the organization and appoint a new interim CEO, which we are in the process of doing.”
The housing secretary also met with Awaab’s relatives on Thursday, which the family’s lawyers called “productive.”
They told the meeting that Mr Gove had pledged to uphold “Awaab’s Law” which would improve the experiences of those who live with mold and dampness in their properties.
“The family is pushing for the enforcement of an Awaab law to ensure that no other family goes through what they have been through,” said attorney Christian Weaver.
Mr Weaver added that Mr Gove had promised to return to Rochdale to meet the family in six months.
In the Commons, Labor MP for Rochdale – Tony Lloyd – paid tribute to the family of Awaab Ishak and urged ministers to open an inquiry into Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.