Permission granted for High Court challenge to the Government’s failure to implement key Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations to protect disabled residents
One of the many alarming and distressing features of the Grenfell Tower fire is the proportion of those who died in the fire who suffered from a form of disability. Evidence that has come to light throughout the Public Inquiry has laid bare the shocking extent of this disparity and the disturbing failure to identify and protect these residents prior to and on the night of the fire.
It is thought that over 40% of the disabled residents living in the tower died in the fire. Many were housed on the highest floors of the tower and were unable to evacuate the building without assistance. Bereaved families and friends have been campaigning tirelessly ever since for action to be taken, firm in the belief that had personal emergency evacuation plans (“PEEPs”) been in place their loved ones would still be with them today.
When the report and recommendations arising out of Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry were published in October 2019, many were relieved that Sir Martin Moore-Bick had recommended:
“(e) that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised (such as persons with reduced mobility or cognition);
(f) that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to include up-to-date information about persons with reduced mobility and their associated PEEPs in the premises information box;”
(Vol IV, 33.22)
In May 2022 however, despite previously agreeing to implement the Inquiry’s recommendations in full, the government appeared to take a U-turn on this promise in respect of the recommendation requiring PEEPs. Instead, the Home Office announced that it was in the consultation stage of introducing an “alternative package of initiatives”, namely an Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing scheme (EEIS), as it did not consider it “proportionate” to follow the Inquiry’s recommendation.
Bereaved families and disability campaign groups quickly raised concerns with this proposal, not least because it appears to focus solely on residents with mobility impairments and to ignore the many other types of disability that may impact on an individual’s ability to self-evacuate during a fire including a wide range of cognitive and physical impairments.
Other concerns have been raised over the scope of the EEIS scheme’s application being confined to buildings with “known serious fire safety issues” and, crucially, not applying to buildings with a stay put strategy in place (as was the case for Grenfell Tower). Under the plans the onus is carefully put on the disabled individual to report their inability to self-evacuate and to fight for a risk assessment to be produced and shared with their local fire and rescue service.
Campaign group Claddag has now been granted permission by the High Court to apply for a judicial review of this decision, indicating that the Judge considers there to be an arguable case that should be brought before the court. Claddag’s core argument in bringing this challenge is that the Home Office’s decision is unlawful on the basis that it breaches disabled residents’ right to life and freedom from discrimination under Articles 2 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and breaches the Public Sector Equality Duty enshrined under the Equality Act 2010. Furthermore, it is arguing that the consultation process carried out by the Home Office was unfairly run as follow-up meetings were held with certain groups after the consultation responses had been gathered without affording others the opportunity to respond.
Saunders Law represents multiple Bereaved, Survivors and former residents of Grenfell Tower in the Public Inquiry. We offer expert legal assistance and representation in all public inquiry cases, and we are well-known for our work and thorough approach to complex cases, please contact us on +44(0)207 632 4300, or fill in our online enquiry form if you would like our assistance and we would be happy to discuss your matter with you.