The housing association that managed the flat in which toddler Awaab Ishak was killed by mold received 106 formal complaints about damp or mold in their properties over the last year, Sky News can reveal.
Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) confirmed the figure in a statement where it also said it is looking after around 12,500 homes.
A former RBH employee, who resigned because of a “toxic culture” within the organization, disputes the figure for the amount of complaints and claims there will be “hundreds more” than what has been recorded.
The housing association, which has come under fire over the death of Awaab due to prolonged exposure to damp and mould, said they are “proactively contacting” all of their customers to remind them about how to contact them if they experience any damp or mold in their homes.
Speaking to Sky News, “Eleanor”, who wanted to protect her identity, claimed: “RBH have been putting profit before people for a long time. They try to cut corners and make them more cash-rich. I’ve been in meetings where has it all been about cost-cutting and how much can we save?”
She added: “That has a knock-on effect to the tenants because they’re not going to get that level of service they need. It’s a death by a thousand cuts.”
When asked if she felt others could die at the hands of RBH’s properties if there isn’t drastic change, she replied: “Absolutely. If it’s happened once, it can happen again.”
When asked to confirm how many complaints about damp and mold it had received in a year, RBH said in its statement to Sky News: “We look after around 12,500 homes and over the last 12 months we have had 106 complaints about damp and mould.
“We provide a full response to initial complaints on average within five days.”
‘We’re breathing it all into our lungs’
Over the last week Sky News has witnessed at least six homes with mold and damp at the Freehold Estate, where Awaab and his family were living between 2017 and 2020, even two years on from his death.
Uwezo lives with young and old people in the flat below and is now worried for his mum’s health because of the mold which has spread from his bathroom to the kitchen.
He told Sky News: “It’s not obviously safe because we have among us grandchildren and seeing what happened to that poor child, it’s not safe to see this happening like this. The ventilation is too old it needs to be changed.”
He added: “We’re breathing it all into our lungs. My mother already doesn’t have the best health and so it’s really heartbreaking to see my mum living in this environment.”
Housing secretary puts RBH on notice
Concern about RBH’s ability was flagged by Housing Secretary Michael Gove at a select committee hearing.
The MP has put RBH on notice after them sacked their chief executive on Saturday – but he now feels the blame goes beyond Gareth Swarbrick.
He told the committee: “Even when in RBH’s case they had these problems brought to their attention the board thought it appropriate to keep the chief executive in place, and it seems to me you shouldn’t blame one individual, ultimately the chief executive and the board should carry the can.”
Asked about Mr Gove’s remarks, a spokesperson for RBH said: “The priority for the board right now is to bring in an external interim chief executive to lead the organization through this period of change and they are working hard to make that happen as soon as possible.
“Of course the board is also focused on its own role and they will be discussing any changes that need to be made once the interim CEO is in place.”
They said around three-quarters of RBH employees live in Rochdale Borough and many are RBH tenants.
They added that in an employee survey over 85% of 400 employees who responded said they felt well supported by RBH, over 80% said they were proud of how RBH supports customers and colleagues and over 90% felt trusted to do their job.