Caretaker finally fired after toddler dies in moldy house

Housing boss Gareth Swarbrick was finally sacked after refusing to step down after the death of a two-year-old boy from mold (Image: PA).

The chief executive of a housing association has been sacked “with immediate effect” after a two-year-old boy died of mold.

Earlier this week an inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak found he died in December 2020 of a respiratory illness caused by mold in the one-bedroom housing association apartment where he lived with his parents Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) chief executive Gareth Swabrick initially refused to step down from his position after it was revealed the organization had ignored over 600 complaints of dampness and black mold during his tenure.

But despite claiming to have the board’s full support less than 24 hours earlier, Mr Swabrick was forcibly removed from his position today after RBH claimed it was “no longer tenable” for him to stay.

In a statement, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing said: “The Board has taken the decision to remove Gareth Swabrick from his post as Chief Executive of RBH with immediate effect.

‘We will now work to appoint an external interim CEO.

“Our initial instinct was for Gareth to continue to lead the organization through this difficult time and make the changes needed, but we all recognize that this is no longer sustainable.


Awaab Ishak died a week after his second birthday from a respiratory illness caused by black mold, a coroner ruled this week (Image: PA)
When the boy’s parents contacted management about the mold they were told to paint it over (Image: MEN Media)

“The coroner found that RBH had made changes as a result of Awaab’s tragic death.

‘Under new leadership, RBH will continue to anchor these changes and drive further improvements to our properties and how we communicate with tenants.’

Mr Swabrick became the subject of intense public backlash after it was revealed he was raking in a salary of over £185,000 while forcing his tenants to live in inhumane conditions.

During the inquest into Awaab’s death, coroner Joanne Kearsley told the court that when his father, Faisal Abdullah, reported the mold problem in 2017, he was told by management to just paint it over.

Ms Kearsley said the death of the young child should be a “defining moment” for the housing sector and Number 10 called the circumstances in which the youngster died “unacceptable”.

After an investigation by the Manchester Evening News, Mr Swarbrick’s role in facilitating the conditions that led to the death of young Awaab soon became a matter of national scrutiny, leading to his being urged to resign by both Labor and Conservative MPs became.

Despite claiming to have the full support of the board on Friday, Mr Swarbrick was sacked from his position just 24 hours later (Image: MEN Media)

When news of the scandal first broke, Housing Secretary Michael Gove said it was “incredible” that Mr Swabrick would be allowed to remain in his post.

He found an unlikely ally in veteran Labor MP Diane Abbott, who tweeted on Wednesday that “in the end, cutbacks and failure to strengthen the law are responsible for Awaab Ishak dying of mold.

‘But Michael Gove is right about one thing. The housing association’s CEO, Gareth Swabrick, should resign.’

Following news of his resignation, a Government source said Gareth Swarbrick’s sacking as chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing was “welcome” but the board still had questions to answer.

The source said: “It is commendable that Gareth Swarbrick has been removed as RBH CEO for his grave mistakes, but RBH and its board still have very serious questions to answer.

“Why did you give him your full support after the coroner’s report and only 24 hours ago?

“And why have they failed to answer basic questions about the state of their housing stock? The Secretary of State for Leveling Up will continue to look after RBH intensively and support tenants where necessary.’

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Justin Scacco

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