Social housing sector magazine, Inside Housing published an article on 20th December where Riverside Group's Executive Director, Ian Gregg said the housing association were "deeply concerned" after a child in Middleton was hospitalised for the second time in a month due to mould in their home. The following is our response to his comments in that article.
GMTU notes Riverside Group's expressions of deep concern for the young boy who has been living in one of their damp and mouldy properties in Middleton, and for his family who have been tenants of that property for the last 5 years.
We welcome this concern and we hope that it will be reflected in actions by Riverside Group that demonstrate more care for their tenants' well-being across their properties in Middleton.
The expressions of deep concern were attributed to Riverside Group's Executive Director of Asset Services. It had been arranged that he would meet with the tenant's GMTU representatives in Middleton yesterday, along with elected representatives from the Rochdale Council and officers from the Council's housing standards enforcement team.
Instead of attending the meeting, he chose to travel to Middleton to visit the family's flat, uninvited and unannounced.
Riverside Group is one of the 5 biggest housing associations in the country, managing over 70,000 properties, including 2,500 in Middleton.
They tell us that they chair an “industry-wide” group addressing problems of damp and mould, that they have produced a damp and mould strategy, that they have appointed someone senior to deliver that strategy, and that they have recently been allocated over £1m to improve their properties in Middleton.
GMTU's experience to date is that - even after the coroner's reports following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, and subsequent instructions from the DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) - they have continued to blame tenants for damp and mould, have tried to require tenants to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of receiving compensation for disrepair, have tried to force tenants who claim compensation into an expensive and long-winded legal process, and have paid little or no attention to tenants' well-being during their “decant” process to and from temporary accommodation.
In the particular case referenced in recent press articles, Riverside Group's lack of care and communication created a situation in which a young family with a child who had already had several hospital admissions due to respiratory difficulties, including as recently as mid-November, had no choice but to move back to a flat that was clearly in an unfit state. This was followed by another hospital admission within a week.
We're aware that Riverside Group are experiencing financial pressures following their acquisition of One Housing, and that their Chief Executive, will be retiring in early 2024. We hope that Riverside Group's expressions of deep concern will be matched by actions that reflect their stated function as a community benefit society whose main purpose is the provision of social housing.
From a Middleton perspective, they currently appear to be distant, distracted and uncaring.
GMTU will continue to support people, as far as possible, in trying to ensure that they have a safe and secure home.
Campaign group SHAC (Social Housing Action Campaign) have been following Riverside Group's poor record over the last few years.