Lisa Nandy MP: More must be done to improve standard of homes
Last week the inquest into the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak reached the damning conclusion that the toddler died as consequence of prolonged exposure to black mould in his family’s housing association flat in Rochdale.
Awaab’s parents first reported the mould to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing more than a year before he was born.
Despite persistent efforts to raise their concerns about the impact of the mould on Awaab’s health with various agencies their calls went unanswered, resulting in the most shocking outcome imaginable.
The coroner found that the advice Awaab’s parents had been given to simply paint over the mould was “not clear or effective”.
Housing association staff had also made the prejudiced and wrong assumption that the problem was caused by the bathing habits of the family.
This was not the case with the coroner ruling that the property had “inadequate ventilation” and was “not equipped for normal day to day living activities”.
It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that, in 21st Century Britain, a family could find their child dying through completely avoidable circumstances
that could and should have been prevented.
This is not just a problem in social housing, there are people in every form of tenure including the private rented sector who are forced to endure appalling
It is estimated that about 450,000 homes in England alone have problems with condensation and mould and the NHS spends £1.3 billion a year on treating preventable illnesses caused by cold and damp homes.
In Wigan I have been involved in many cases where my constituents have repeatedly sounded the alarm about their unacceptable housing conditions, particularly in private rented accommodation, and I have fought hard alongside them to eventually get their issues resolved.
As I said when MPs debated the findings of the inquest into Awaab’s death in Parliament last week this must mark the start of a real step change in our level of urgency to end the scourge of families living in damp, mouldy and squalid conditions.
I was pleased that the boss of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing was finally sacked at the weekend and that the Government have now contacted housing
providers telling them they should carry out assessments of damp and mould in their properties, as well as undertaking any actions that may be needed to
tackle the issue.
But we must go further.
As Labour has laid out, we need a decent homes standard fit for the 21st century and greater rights and protections for tenants, including the right to request speedy repairs.
The requirement that all homes are fit for human habitation must be written into law and we also need to see the retrofitting and insulation of older social housing stock to make homes cheaper to heat.
It is a stain on our nation’s conscience that anybody could die in the way Awaab did.
There is a political consensus that everyone deserves the right to live in a safe and secure home.
There is no excuse for any further delay.