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The home where Awaab Ishak died still has problems with damp and mould more than two years after his “tragic and preventable” death.

A new report into Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) paints a “disturbing picture” of life on the estate where the toddler died after being exposed to extensive mould in his family’s flat.

RBH has confirmed to Sky News that the flat – which is now home to a new tenant – still contains black mould, although it is not as prevalent as when the Ishak family lived there.

The latest investigation into the tragedy found a culture where staff dismissed residents out of hand, believing they knew better.

RBH employees held “prejudices and lazy assumptions” about asylum seekers and refugees, that left them struggling with inadequate – and sometimes dangerous – housing, according to the Housing Ombudsman.

One staff member said when residents complained about the mould and living conditions, a manager told her because “most of the residents are refugees” they “were lucky to have [a] roof over head”.

Awaab Ishak's home
Awaab Ishak’s home

‘Disgusting’ attitudes on display

Richard Blakeway, from the Housing Ombudsman, said the attitudes on display were “frankly, disgusting”.

While RBH did conduct an independent review following Awaab’s death, this was done entirely by telephone because of the pandemic. It failed to identify the extensive damp and mould – present in 80% of homes – that a subsequent survey in 2022 found throughout the estate.

Of the 380 properties surveyed, 12 were branded as Category 1 hazards.

Two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died in December 2020.
Two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died in December 2020.

The ombudsman said it is inevitable there are more residents out there living with “serious mould” and RBH has been given a three-month deadline to make progress on the failures outlined in the report.

Yvonne Arrowsmith, RBH Interim Chief Executive, said the organisation was not going to argue with the contents of the report.

Her predecessor, Gareth Swarbrick, was sacked in the wake of Awaab’s death while RBH was stripped of new funding and downgraded to “non-compliant” by the regulator for failing to act.

“We are really sorry to any residents that have not been treated with respect, that haven’t felt their voice has been heard. Because that’s just not acceptable,” she told Sky News.

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The report, she said, was “painful” and “uncomfortable” to read, but was also fairly “balanced”, with the ombudsman recognising where it was attempting to improve.

RBH has visited 5,000 properties since December to check for problems and is doing a 100% stock condition survey this year.

But Ms Arrowsmith denied the organisation is structurally racist, and said: “It was poor customer service”.

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Is Awaab’s death a defining moment for the housing sector?

Awaab’s family wrongly blamed

When mould issues were first reported by Awaab’s family, RBH focussed entirely on how his parents were using the home.

Previously, the inquest heard evidence from staff that the family had a “lifestyle of boiling food in pans on the stove” and assumptions had been made, on the basis of seeing a bucket, that the family practiced ritual bathing.

This assumption was based entirely on a member of staff’s “previous, irrelevant” interactions with other people in the same block of flats.

Awaab Ishak's home
Awaab Ishak’s home

Mr Blakeway said the initial response by RBH to Awaab’s death was “inadequate” and “simply wrong”.

“There were misplaced views and derogatory comments about the family and the circumstances in which the family found themselves,” he said.

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What is Awaab’s law?

The ombudsman also found RBH lost most of its email data in 2020. This destroyed an audit trail for cases wrongly handled by email in the years previously, including that of Awaab’s family.

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Awaab ‘paid price for corporate neglect’

‘They blamed us for breathing too much’

The dismissive language was not restricted to just Awaab’s family either.

One tenant, who lives in a three-bedroom house managed by RBH, told Sky News most of the rooms are “useless” because of damp and mould.

Richard Kalanyos has a small child around Awaab’s age and first complained to his landlord two years ago about the problem.

“The bed has mould everywhere, the walls, around the window area too,” he said.

Richard Kalanyos
Richard Kalanyos

“Night or day, there’s always moisture. We heat the rooms a lot, losing money by heating, but it’s just too much.”

He said RBH sent someone to investigate, but they blamed him for having “too many people” in the property.

“They blamed us for breathing too much,” he said.

He continued: “But every day we leave the windows open.

“I was so angry, but what can I do? It was hopeless to try and get help.”

Richard Kalanyos
Richard Kalanyos’s home is still covered in damp and mould

‘RBH threw out my parent’s ashes’

Residents were often accused of using mould issues to try and get a bigger property, the ombudsman report found.

In one 2021 case, an RBH staff member admitted there was a “small amount of black mould in the property” but blamed it on the people living there.

In an internal email, sent after the inspection, they wrote: “There are three children and two adults living in the two bed home. So, that is the cause of the problem. Their frustration is that they want a bigger home and cant [sic] get one.”

And problems went even beyond RBH’s inability to deal with mould.

Richard Kalanyos

In another instance, a resident was given the wrong end date for her tenancy. RBH realised this but did not contact her to correct it. The woman had partially moved out and when she returned to finish getting her belongings she found the landlord had changed the locks.

They had also thrown away her belongings – including her parent’s ashes.

Mr Blakeway said the ombudsman is seeing “repeated failure” from a number of landlords, but the report should be a wake-up call, both for RBH and the housing sector as a whole.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “This investigation lays bare the appalling failures by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing that led to Awaab Ishak’s tragic death. It is shocking that such inadequate standards and repeated tenant blaming were long-standing issues.

“This is absolutely unacceptable and I will continue to block government funding from RBH for new homes until it can prove each of its residents has a safe and secure home. New leadership at RBH is an important first step, but there is still much more to do.

“Our Social Housing Bill will hold failing landlords to account and in Awaab’s name, we are introducing a law so that hazards like damp and mould will have to be fixed within set time frames.”

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Eamonn Holmes claims there was ‘total cover-up’ over Phillip Schofield’s affair with younger man




Eamonn Holmes claims there was 'total cover-up' over Phillip Schofield's affair with younger man

Eamonn Holmes has claimed there was a “total cover-up” over Phillip Schofield’s affair with a younger male colleague on This Morning while he was married.

Holmes, 63, who also presented on the show, has accused Schofield of “toxicity” amid the furore over the culture on the ITV daytime programme.

Host Schofield, 61, admitted last Friday to an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague on the show and has now quit the commercial broadcaster and been dropped by his talent agency YMU.

Schofield on Monday hit back at critics, saying on Instagram there was “no toxicity” on the programme, adding: “I hope you have noticed that it’s the same handful of people with a grudge against me or the show who seem to have the loudest voice.”

ITV said there had been an investigation in early 2020 when “rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate” but said it did not find “any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour”.

A statement from the commercial broadcaster on 27 May said: “Both parties were questioned and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours as did Phillip’s then agency YMU.

“In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour… He lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media and to others over this relationship.”

More on Phillip Schofield

But Holmes told GB News presenter Dan Wootton: “It’s a total cover-up.

“Those in authority had to know what was going on and they thought they would dodge a bullet with this.

“Which they do and they do constantly because with Schofield talking about those who speak out against him, namely me, Amanda Holden and you [Dan Wootton], you’ll be included in the toxicity that goes on… Dr Ranj [Singh] of course as well.

“And you simply sit there and think ‘no mate, you’ve had it all your way for too long’.”

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This Morning presenters address controversy

Read more:
A timeline of the This Morning controversy

ITV responds to rumours around show’s future
Why Schofield’s admission could kill off his career

Referring to Schofield’s comments on Instagram, Holmes said: “I think that Phillip is absolutely right about toxicity.

“But my friend, the toxicity is not with me, Dan Wootton, or anyone else, the toxicity is with you.”

Phillip Schofield and Eamonn Holmes social media statements in full

Just before 10am on Monday, Phillip Schofield posts a statement on his Instagram stories.

“Now I no longer work on @thismorning I am free to say this. I hope you have noticed that it’s the same handful of people with a grudge against me or the show who seem to have the loudest voice.

“This morning IS the best show to work on, with the best people. In all the years I worked there there was no toxicity. You can listen to those persistently loud voices if you like.

“But the thousands of guests over the years, thousands of staff and crew, hundreds of presenters and contributors all know, it IS a family of wonderful, talented, kind, hard working people.”

At 11.10am Eamonn Holmes tweets a response.

“Schofield has just put out a delusional statement. Like Holly he puts it on Insta Stories so if it goes wrong there is no record after 24 hrs.

“I’m reluctant to give the liar any more publicity but believe me Pip if u r looking for a fight , u have picked on the wrong person !”

Earlier in the day, Holmes on social media described Schofield as “delusional” and said he has “picked the wrong person… if you’re looking for a fight”.

ITV has been approached for comment by Sky News about Holmes’s claims.

GB News asked ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment, Kevin Lygo, if there was a “cover-up” and if he “protected” Schofield.

Mr Lygo told a GB News producer: “We really have no more to say.”

Holmes previously presented This Morning on Fridays with his wife Ruth Langsford.

The programme’s former resident doctor Dr Ranj Singh has hit out at the show’s “toxic” culture, saying he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination” two years ago when he worked there and afterwards felt like he was “managed out” for whistleblowing.

Schofield quit This Morning on 20 May after more than 20 years.

Schofield originally said he was stepping down from the show because it had “become the story”, following reports of a feud between him and co-host Holly Willoughby.

It came after his brother was recently jailed for 12 years over child sex offences.

Willoughby, 41, is due to return next Monday (5 June), having gone on an early half-term holiday on 22 May.

Holly Willoughby (left) and Phillip Schofield attending the launch of Dancing On Ice 2020, held at Bovingdon Airfield, Hertfordshire. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday December 9, 2019. See PA story SHOWBIZ Ice. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire.
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield

She said that “when reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not”.

“It’s been very hurtful to now find out this was a lie,” an Instagram statement added.

Schofield has now completely resigned from ITV and been dropped by his agents.

In his statement to the Daily Mail he also admitted lying about his affair to his wife, to ITV, his agents and the media.

The controversy has raised doubts about both Willoughby’s and the show’s future, but the channel has denied reports it could be axed.

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Vape advertising: Government to crack down on promotions ‘targeted at children’




Vape advertising: Government to crack down on promotions 'targeted at children'

Rishi Sunak has said a new government crackdown on vape marketing will stop the “unacceptable” targeting of children and young people. 

Ministers have pledged to close a loophole that allows shops to offer free samples of vapes to children in England as concerns over the proportion of youngsters trying e-cigarettes mounts.

It comes days after the prime minister expressed concern about his own daughters potentially being targeted by vape marketing during an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

There will also be a review into banning retailers selling “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s, the government said, as well as a review of the rules on issuing fines to shops that illegally sell vapes to children.

The government said such reviews could make it easier for local trading standards officials to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices.

Ministers cited NHS figures from 2021 which revealed 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds used e-cigarettes – up from 6% in 2018.

Brightly coloured packaging and sweet flavours are encouraging children to try out vaping, campaigners say Pic: AP
Brightly coloured packaging and sweet flavours are encouraging children to try out vaping, campaigners say Pic: AP

Mr Sunak said he was “deeply concerned” about the increase in children vaping, adding he was “shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of schoolchildren”.

More on Vaping

“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3m – is on the case but clearly there is more to do,” the prime minister said.

“That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.”

He added that the marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children are “completely unacceptable” and that he will do everything in his power to “end this practice for good”.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty called the decision to close the loophole a “very welcome step”.

He said: “Whilst vaping can be an effective quitting tool for smokers, it is important that non-smokers are not encouraged to start vaping.

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Sunak on vape ‘enforcement squads’

“There has been a particularly worrying rise in the number of children using vapes, with companies clearly marketing these products at children using colours, flavours and cheap disposable options.

“Closing the loophole that allows companies to give out free samples of vaping products to under-18s is a very welcome step in tackling some of the harms caused by the vaping industry.”

He added: “We should continue to encourage smokers to swap to vaping as the lesser risk, whilst preventing the marketing and sale of vapes to children.”

Read more:
Number of children trying vaping rises 50% in a year in ‘tide of experimentation’
Sunak hits out at vape companies for appealing to children

The health risks of vaping will now also be included in Relatonships, Sex and Health Education lessons in schools as part of the ongoing government review of the curriculum.

And the crackdown will also see dedicated police school liaison officers work to keep illegal vapes out of schools.

Health minister Neil O’Brien described any marketing of vaping products to children as “shameful”.

He said the government would “review the rules on issuing on-the-spot fines to shops that break the law by selling vapes to underage youngsters, and look into banning the sale of nicotine-free vapes to under-18s – which we know can be a gateway to using nicotine products”.

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UK weather: Temperatures forecast to cool across parts of country after hottest day of the year so far




UK weather: Temperatures forecast to cool across parts of country after hottest day of the year so far

Sunday was officially the hottest day of 2023 so far – but temperatures are predicted to cool this week for some.

Plymouth hit 24.4C (75.9F) yesterday, beating Saturday’s high of 24.3C (75.7F) in Bramham, West Yorkshire, by just a tenth of a degree.

Previously the hottest temperature of the year was 23.4C (74.1F) – recorded in Cardiff last Monday.

High pressure meant dry and warm conditions across the UK last week, but forecasters expect a cooler feel from Monday night.

Find out the 5-day forecast where you are here

New Quay in West Wales on Sunday
New Quay in West Wales on Sunday

“Generally, there will be a lot of dry weather around and a good amount of sunshine still,” Met Office meteorologist Jonathan Vautrey said. “Hazy cloud pushing through at times might make the sunshine hazy in places.

“Temperatures then going to be feeling cooler along eastern coastal areas.”

More on Uk Weather

Colder conditions in the far north and the east will be brought on by a “cool breeze off the North Sea”, the Met Office added.

Southern and eastern parts will also be cloudy.

This spring has been cooler than usual in general so far, with temperatures not yet reaching 25C (77F) anywhere in the country.

If the UK doesn’t meet that threshold in the coming days, it will be the first time in 10 years without a day of 25C or hotter by 1 June.

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Lake Windermere, Cumbria, during the warm Spring Bank Holiday weather. Picture date: Monday May 29, 2023.
Lake Windermere in Cumbria on Sunday

Warmer weather in the west

For the rest of this week, half-term for much of England and Wales, the best weather will be confined to western areas.

The Met Office says the high pressure that sent the mercury soaring last week will “stay in charge” in those parts.

Temperatures are likely to peak on Wednesday – and could reach 25C across western Scotland and Wales.

Conditions will be dry and settled, but feel cooler at night. Pollen counts will also be high.

South West England and Wales are set to have the highest temperatures for the remainder of the bank holiday.

Two men died having been pulled from the sea near Torbay in Devon during the hot weather on Saturday, with emergency services warning people against swimming in non-guarded areas.

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