Five years on from Grenfell, the government is ‘failing’ disabled people across the UK by not implementing changes recommended by the Grenfell inquiry. The Home Office has rejected a recommendation from the inquiry, which would require owners of high-rise residential buildings to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for disabled residents. Forty per cent of disabled residents died in the fire at Grenfell and it is thought that no disabled or vulnerable person living there had received or been taken through an evacuation plan. Now, campaigners are taking matters into their own hands, to hold the government to account.
The Home Office will not give disabled people the right to evacuation plans due to “practicality, cost and proportionality.” In its response to the consultation, the department acknowledged concerns around implementing PEEPs in buildings with different fire safety strategies.
Some buildings have a ‘stay put’ strategy in place, while others require ‘simultaneous evacuation’ in the event of a fire. The Home Office argues it needs more evidence on the implications of implementing PEEPs in buildings with different policies.
The consultation also highlighted concerns about the availability of staff to enact PEEPs and the costs for leaseholders of implementing them.
The Home Office stated: ‘We have given careful consideration to the general equality duty, but the concerns around practicality, proportionality, and the safety case have led us to conclude that mandating PEEPs as described in the consultation at this time could in fact have a detrimental effect on those with certain protected characteristics’.
Failing to act on all recommendations
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommended that all disabled people living in high-rise buildings should have the right to a personal emergency evacuation plan (“an evacuation plan”). Prime minister Boris Johnson promised to implement all of the recommendations, in full following the phase 1-report which was released in October 2019. The report made 46 recommendations, of which, the Home Office states it has incorporated 21 of the recommendations into UK law.
Inquiry Chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick has since started writing his report on phase 2 of the inquiry which will be heard in 2023.
Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK said: “The Grenfell Tower inquiry has been an emotional and challenging time for residents and those bereaved. The government have failed to deliver on their commitment to implement all Grenfell Inquiry recommendations, and earlier this year rejected the phase 1 recommendation on implementing Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs). We will continue to campaign on this issue and urge others to do the same.”
Taking matters into their own hands
In support of disabled people’s rights, two campaigners are seeking legal action against the Home Office for its decision not to implement key recommendations for disabled people.
Sarah Rennie, a accessibility and inclusion specialist and Co-Founder of Claddag and campaigner Georgie Hulme stated:
“We believe the Government must be held to account for failing to make the fundamental changes it promised in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. We have therefore instructed our legal team to issue proceedings to seek permission for a Judicial Review.”
The campaigners have since launched a crowdfunder, which will provide support for their case, should the Home Office seek damages. However, Rennie and Hulme has stated that if they win the case, the money will be returned to those who donated:
“If we win the case and no costs are imposed against us in the next six months, your donation will be fully refunded via the GoFundMe platform. If we lose and costs are imposed against us, or the case does not resolve within six months, the funds will be administered by Sarah Rennie and our solicitors as appropriate.”
So far, Rennie and Hulme are close to reaching their goal and have raised £5,000 of the £7,500 they need to pursue the case.