11:00 AM, 3rd April 2023, About 11 months ago 2
A social housing provider has been heavily criticised by the Ombudsman over damp and mould.
The Housing Ombudsman identified patterns of ‘exclusion’ and ‘marginalisation’ in Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.
The social housing provider supplied accommodation to Awaab Ishak, the toddler who died from exposure to mould in his social housing flat.
The report prompted by the inquest into Awaab’s death revealed residents were not treated fairly.
The Housing Ombudsman found unsympathetic, inappropriate, and heavy-handed behaviour towards residents with one claiming he was discriminated against because of his ethnicity.
The Ombudsman revealed a culture of ‘othering’ of the residents, and it lay at the heart of the issues with the social housing landlord. This involved a pattern of exclusion and marginalisation based on identities perceived as different.
Richard Blakeway, from the Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is highly unlikely that this endemic behaviour of ‘othering’ is isolated to a single landlord.
“Our investigation found reoccurring instances of residents being treated in dismissive, inappropriate or unsympathetic ways. In some instances, the language used was derogatory.
“The social housing sector should consider whether they also need to turn over the stone and do a deep dive into their culture and whether they are living their social purpose.”
He added: “Our investigation has highlighted that cultural change will be central to the landlord’s recovery.”
The Ombudsman uncovered a maladministration rate of 67%, including three findings of severe maladministration. The Ombudsman identified seven key themes and set out a series of recommendations to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.
Some of the recommendations included a damp and mould strategy which the social housing provider aims to have in place by April 2023. However, the Ombudsman said staff need to have more sufficient training on how to make the right decision when it comes to damp and mould.
The other recommendations included formal hazards assessments being introduced for damp and mould inspections and for the social housing provider to update its complaints policy and self-assess against the Code.
A statement from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing said: “The findings in the report are sobering but not unexpected. There has been significant learning from the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, which highlighted key areas of concern within Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.
“We have recognised that too often damp and mould was not seen as a serious issue and was attributed to a resident’s lifestyle.
“We have taken significant steps since December 2022 to tackle this across our homes. But it is fair to say that this work should have started much sooner and that the scale of the issue in our homes means it will take us time to complete.
The social housing provider added: “The report also highlights concerns with the way in which residents were treated.
“Our residents have the right to be treated with respect and listened to and too often this wasn’t happening. We will put this right and have begun a culture shift programme across the organisation.”
The full report can be viewed here.
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