Urgent questions about the safety of Kirklees’ housing have been raised following the shocking death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak after he inhaled mould spores at his Rochdale home.
The tragedy resulted in a huge outpouring of anger after a coroner ruled he died from a respiratory condition caused by mould and Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) did nothing to solve the issue. Awaab’s father repeatedly raised the issue with RBH but no action was ever taken.
Questions were asked about the failings in the House of Commons with Housing Secretary Michael Gove saying his department would “name and shame” landlords who breached standards after the death. Mr Gove said new legislation would hold landlords to account. He said: “The time for empty promises of improvement is over.”
At Kirklees Council’s cabinet meeting earlier this week Cllr John Lawson (Lib Dems, Cleckheaton) said: “Following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale recently due to black mould, as the coroner has said, the inhaling of mould spores over a long period of time. Can I ask what kind of picture we have of the similar kind of problem in Kirklees and whether any of our properties are exposed to that issue?”
Cllr Cathy Scott, Cabinet Member for Housing and Democracy said she was glad that the question had been raised at the meeting and offered condolences to Awaab’s family. She added: “I have asked officers to look at and report back as quickly as possible on how many properties we have that fall below decent home standards. As you know we’re undertaking a major compliance audit for carrying out duties on homes at the moment and looking at decent home standards.”
The councillor also urged tenants to report any ongoing housing issues, saying “Please report things to us. You’re encouraged to come forward if you have got these issues so that I can take it on board myself so they’re welcome to ring me or go directly through the
housing. We need to prevent this and ensure that this doesn’t happen in Kirklees.
She concluded by saying she couldn’t give Cllr Lawson the information he was requesting but once this had been collected she would report back. She said: “I think it’s a report that needs bringing back to us all to be aware of – the standards and are we meeting them, but I think you will agree with me that legislation will no doubt change things as well in that area so we’re working on compliance, we’re driving up the decent homes standards so I will come back to you, John.”
Cllr Lawson told the meeting that, during the inquest into Ishak’s death, it was stated that the legislation around these housing issues should be strengthened.
He said: “The likelihood of legislation is very high and increasing. It was stated during the inquest or during the evidence given that the legislation really does need strengthening.
“It would be good to know how we are readying ourselves for the legislation coming at us down the pipeline, and where and when that could be reported to council.”
Cllr Scott agreed, before expressing her concerns over private sector housing. She said: “There’s nothing not to agree with, but I think as we’re looking at Kirklees neighbourhood homes that we also need to take into account the private sector that we have within Kirklees and drive up in some cases but not all the standards that are out there, the lettable standards.
“This goes back to me saying before we need to drive a Kirklees standard that we will not support or settle for less with private landlords in some of the issues that we do have. It is a reflection on ourselves. I will report back to you.”