Two former employees of the housing association that managed the flat in which mould killed Awaab Ishak have claimed more people could die as they accused it of having a “toxic and bullying culture”.
Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) controls more than 12,000 homes in the area.
Two years on from Awaab’s death, Sky News witnessed a number of properties on the Freehold Estate in Rochdale, where the boy and his family lived, with severe mould and damp.
Two ex-employees who resigned over the culture within RBH told Sky News that tenants are suffering because of the poor standard of accommodation.
Gareth Swarbrick, its chief executive, was sacked on Saturday, with the association’s board saying he had been removed with “immediate effect”.
An employee who worked at RBH for six years, Dave (not his real name), told Sky News: “The culture was horrible. It was bullying, toxic for the employees. It’s not fit for purpose at all. It’s meant to be run as a charity for the focus of the tenants [but] nothing could be further from the truth.”
When Awaab’s parents were complaining about the state of their mouldy and damp flat in 2017, Dave was working in the association’s call centre.
“All the staff were advised to tell anyone ringing up to just open up your trickle vents on your window – make sure you ventilate your property and put heating on and they would fob people off,” he said.
“The total disregard for the tenants and cost-cutting was so obvious and it’s really sad to be honest.”
‘Association is racist’
Awaab’s parents, who fled Sudan to seek asylum in the UK, claimed the housing association was racist.
Dave said he agrees with them. “In my view, yes [it is racist],” he said. “It’s sad to say but it is.”
RBH refuted his claim, telling Sky News: “We are not a racist organisation, but we accept that assumptions were wrongly made in Awaab’s case. We are taking swift action to review our current approach and changes we need to make.”
There is only one way to avoid another tragedy, Dave claimed. “I definitely think there’ll be more deaths due to the lack of repairs,” he said.
“I think the only way that tenants will be safe is if RBH is closed down and the council takes it back over.”
Another employee, who resigned this year, quit after she heard about how and why Awaab had died.
Julie (not her real name) claimed the management “covered it up” and did not tell staff what had happened.
She told Sky News: “I knew one day RBH would make headlines because of how bad it was getting. I just hoped it wasn’t through the death of someone, especially a tenant. Even worse, it was a little boy.”
Julie added: “It just wasn’t right what they were doing. They were saying one thing and doing another – and that wasn’t right for me morally.”
On the culture of RBH, Julie commented: “It was toxic and people were getting away with treating employees how they wanted to, especially ones that challenged decisions. They’d be disciplined. In the end it just put a fear factor through the organisation.”
Awaab died in December 2020. A coroner’s inquest concluded this month that he lost his life because of prolonged exposure to mould and damp in the inadequate accommodation provided by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.
This should be a defining moment for the social housing sector, the coroner said.
RBH told Sky News it was “disappointed that two former employees claimed there is a culture of bullying”, adding: “We are an employee and tenant-owned mutual organisation with a strong set of values at our core. Our culture is one of collaboration and mutuality.”
Woman sets challenge to give Christmas gifts that don’t cost a penny – and here are her top tips
This year, Jane Hawkes has set herself a challenge – a totally free Christmas.
Not content with just getting a good Black Friday deal, the consumer champion, blogger and competition aficionado will be giving gifts this year that haven’t cost her a penny.
“Why pay for Christmas when you can win it?” she said.
From Minecraft toys to mini Gucci perfumes, there are a whole host of freebies on offer for those willing to look.
“I could end up with a draw full of tat, or I could end up with a draw full of lovely little goodies I can distribute over Christmas,” she told Sky News.
Websites, such as SuperLucky.me and The Latest Free Stuff do regular round-ups of available competitions, with most only taking a few clicks to enter. Setting up Google autofill makes the process even quicker. (As always, be careful who you give your details to – never give anyone your bank details, or send money online, regardless of what the deal says.)
Jane, who blogs about her experiences on Lady Janey, spends about an hour a day online looking for freebies and suggests setting up a secondary email if you don’t want to overload your inbox with spam.
Free champagne, brewery tours, chocolates and flowers are just some of the items she has won in the past.
This Christmas she has already won a free Smeg kettle, £30 in Amazon vouchers, perfume samples and a beer gift set that she plans to give away.
Her latest trick is answering surveys about TV shows and radio she has listened to in exchange for entering prize draws.
Her advice to those hoping to follow in her footsteps was to make a list (and check it twice), so you can be sure you are only entering competitions for relevant prizes.
“You want to make sure you are using your time effectively, just like you would use your funds effectively,” she said.
Another way to help with the cost this Christmas, she said, was to skill share with friends. She did some work on a friend’s website, and in exchange, the friend gave her some fudge and brownie bombs her small business makes.
She also advises consumers to be picky this year – if something’s not up to scratch, then politely complain, even if it is something as small as a button missing from a shirt.
“I have exacting standards and I am very honest,” she said. “I think we l live in a world of mediocrity when it comes to customer service and we need to assert our rights a bit more.”
This tactic scored her three spa days in Rome and two hampers of wine, chocolates, biscuits and posh popcorn – so perhaps it is advice worth heeding.
Family of Yusuf Mahmud Nazir, 5, who died after he was sent home from hospital not satisfied with investigation
The grieving family of a five-year-old boy who died after being sent home from a hospital have said they are not satisfied with an investigation which will look into how he was treated.
Hospital bosses in South Yorkshire have said the inquiry will be led by independent investigators outside of the region but the family wants it to be “completely external” from the NHS.
Zaheer Ahmed, the uncle of Yusuf Mahmud Nazir, told Sky News he wants a “full independent investigation out of the NHS”.
Mr Ahmed said the health service “want to do an external investigation by someone from the NHS outside of the district”. He added: “We are still in the talks and we are requesting that it is completely external.”
Mr Ahmed previously told Sky News that Yusuf would still be alive if the family had been listened to.
He said he “begged and begged” for his nephew to be admitted to Rotherham General Hospital due to a throat infection but was told “there are no beds and not enough doctors”.
After the boy was examined there on Monday 14 November, he was sent home, even though the doctor treating his nephew said “it was the worst case of tonsillitis he had ever seen”, according to Mr Ahmed.
At home, his condition deteriorated and he was later taken by ambulance to Sheffield Children’s Hospital but it was too late to save the young boy’s life.
The infection had spread to his lungs and caused multiple organ failure resulting in several cardiac arrests, and he died of pneumonia on Monday 21 November.
Hospital boss apologises
The chief executive of the Rotherham hospital, Dr Richard Jenkins, has now met Mr Ahmed and has apologised to him and the family.
Mr Ahmed said: “To me, it’s an acknowledgment that ‘we (the NHS) know we’ve made a mistake… and we’re working on it very hard to rectify that mistake’.
“But that mistake should not have happened. It’s cost the life of Yusuf.”
Mr Ahmed said more was needed.
“We want action to be done, the apology aside, we want answers, why has it cost Yusuf’s life, who’s responsible for it, what’s going to get done, what’s been done?”
Mr Ahmed said he had been told by NHS officials that since Yusuf’s death, the hospital has brought in another paediatric doctor to work in the A&E department and has cut waiting times for children there.
He said that on the evening when Yusuf was examined, there were 93 children in A&E and only one doctor to see them.
‘We want the truth’
Mr Ahmed said: “We want the hospital to reveal the truth to everybody. We want answers, for them to make changes and put stuff in place, so no other family suffers, no other child suffers, no other human suffers.”
Dr Jenkins said in a letter to the family’s MP Sarah Champion that he has spoken to Yusuf’s uncle to “directly express my condolences and to apologise to the family”.
Dr Jenkins wrote: “We have all been devastated to hear the family’s account of their experience of care and the ultimate death of Yusuf in Sheffield.
“It is vital that a thorough and independently conducted investigation takes place as soon as possible so the family can have answers to their concerns and we can identify where changes need to be made.
“Clearly assessment of clinical care and decisions requires the right expertise, so I am liaising with regional NHS England colleagues to identify appropriate independent investigators from outside South Yorkshire.”
In the letter, Dr Jenkins also explained the investigation “will involve the family in this so we can be sure that all their concerns will be fully addressed”.
Yusuf first complained of a sore throat on 13 November. His parents took him to their GP, who prescribed antibiotics.
The next day, when their son’s health did not improve, they drove him to the emergency department of Rotherham General Hospital.
Dr Jenkins said the investigation aims to cover the “whole pathway of Yusuf’s care, including both attendances with his GP, the Rotherham hospital attendance at the urgent and emergency care centre and subsequent contact from the family, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Sheffield Children’s Hospital”.
Stevie Nicks leads tributes after bandmate Christine McVie dies aged 79
Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks has led tributes to bandmate Christine McVie, who has has died aged 79, saying she had wanted to sing to her one last time.
The British-American rock band, founded in London in 1967, sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful groups ever.
In a post on Facebook, McVie’s family wrote: “It is with a heavy heart we are informing you of Christine’s death.
“She passed away peacefully at hospital this morning, Wednesday, November 30th 2022, following a short illness. She was in the company of her family.”
The statement continued by asking for the family’s privacy to be respected at “this extremely painful time” and for everyone to remember the “revered musician who was loved universally”.
Bandmate Stevie Nicks paid tribute, tweeting a heartfelt handwritten note: “A few hours ago I was told that my best friend in the whole world since the first day of 1975, had passed away.
“I didn’t even know she was ill… until late Saturday night.
“I wanted to be in London; I wanted to get to London – but we were told to wait. So, since Saturday, one song has been swirling around in my head, over and over and over.
“I thought I might possibly get to sing it to her, and so, I’m singing to her now. I always knew I would need these words one day.”
She then wrote the lyrics to Hallelujah by Haim, a song about the death of a friend.
One of the best selling albums of all time
Among Fleetwood Mac’s best-known songs are Dreams, Go Your Own Way and Everywhere.
Singer-songwriter and keyboardist McVie penned Songbird, one of the band’s most famous tracks, as well as Oh Daddy, Little Lies and Don’t Stop.
She was sole writer of four of the tracks on their best selling album Rumours, which was released in 1977 and went on to become one of the most successful albums of all time – selling more than 40 million copies worldwide.
She also co-wrote the album’s The Chain, which had a second life as the theme to the Formula One BBC TV coverage from the late 1970s, on and off until the 2015.
Many of the songs on Rumours documented the break up of McVie and her husband John McVie – along with the split of fellow singer/songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, adding to the album’s notoriety.
The singles released from Rumours didn’t chart very high in the UK at the time, but it has gone on to be regarded as one of the best long players ever, featuring in numerous lists of top albums.
McVie was among the eight members of the band who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and she left the band a short time later following the death of her father.
She had a successful solo career and reunited with her bandmates in 2013 after a 15-year hiatus.
In 2017, she revealed that she had retreated from the world and developed agoraphobia after leaving Fleetwood Mac and moving from California to Kent.
‘The best musician anyone could have’
A message on the band’s Twitter page read: “There are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie. She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure.
“She was the best musician anyone could have in their band and the best friend anyone could have in their life.
“We were so lucky to have a life with her. Individually and together, we cherished Christine deeply and are thankful for the amazing memories we have.”
Many others in the music world also paid tribute to her, with Sheryl Crow saying: “So sad to hear of Christine McVie going on to heaven. The world feels weird without her here. What a legend and an icon and an amazing human being.”
Bette Midler added on Twitter: “#ChristineMcVie has left us. What memories, what joy, and what a legacy…”
Duran Duran said: “So so sad to hear about Christine McVie an artist I held dear and close to my heart. One of the greatest all time songwriters, singers, and band members, she radiated both purity and sass in equal measure, bringing light to the music of the 70s.”
Harry Styles posted a black and white picture of the singer/songwriter on his Instagram stories, with a black loveheart emoji and a white dove emoji.
Born Christine Perfect in Bouth, Lancashire, McVie played piano in her childhood, but set aside her classical training once she heard early rock’n’roll numbers by Fats Domino and others.
She had moderate success with a band called Chicken Shack and as a solo artist before her marriage to John McVie, after which she joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970.
McVie’s death comes two years after Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green died at the age of 73.
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