WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 18 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
Search
Close this search box.

Awaab Ishak’s tragic death is a defining moment for the housing sector, says coroner

Awaab Ishak’s tragic death is a defining moment for the housing sector, says coroner

Pic: Patrick Maguire
Red Cell: Patrick Maguire from Proof magazine, issue 4

An inquest into the circumstances surrounding Awaab Ishak’s death has led many experts to condemn the landlord, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBF), for failing to ensure Awaab had an adequate standard of living. A coroner ruled that the two-year-old boy died from a severe respiratory condition due to prolonged exposure to mould on December 21, 2020 in Manchester.

Concerns about the living conditions were repeatedly raised by Awaab’s parents but were ignored. The family claim that ‘racism had [a] role to play’ in the death of their son. Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, who came to the UK from Sudan said, ‘we have no doubt at all that we were treated this way because we were not from the country, and less aware of how the systems in the UK work.’

The inquest heard evidence that on multiple occasions during the two years of living in the flat, instructions were not communicated properly, and there was no effort to provide translation when English communications were not fully understood. The NHS Trust, which runs both treatment sites the family sought care at, admitted that on balance Awaab would not have died at the time he did if he had been admitted to Royal Oldham Hospital sooner that day. The advice given to Awaab’s mother, whose English is not fluent, did not specify which hospital Awaab would need to return to if his condition worsened. The NHS is advising care specialists to use the NHS ‘language line’ translation service to ensure that patients understand advice.

The latest English housing survey, commissioned by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, found that some 4 million homes failed to reach the Decent Homes Standard, which requires that homes meet the statutory minimum standard for housing. A further 839,000 homes reported issues with damp in 2020. Reporting may have been affected due to the inability of housing surveyors to enter the homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Housing advocates are hopeful that in time, damp and mould would be given the same legal treatment as gas safety and legionella, which are required to be fixed by landlords. The  Social Housing Regulation Bill currently progressing through Parliament will strengthen the regulation of social housing. Campaigners observe that any changes will come too late for Awaab Ishak, but will nonetheless support the thousands of families waiting for aid in their own ongoing situations.

“We shouted out as loudly as we could, but despite making all of those efforts, every night we would be coming back to the same problem. Nothing was changing”, said the family. “He was always full of smiles, he liked to joke and was full of life and laughter. He used to enjoy playing on his bike and with his ball. He always wanted to be with us. His absence leaves a huge void.”