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Grenfell Tower families ‘enraged’ by Government plan to retain ‘stay put’ policy

File photo dated 16/02/21 of the Grenfell Memorial Wall in the grounds of Kensington Aldridge Academy, London. A memorial garden where survivors can “remember together” looks likely to be created at the site of Grenfell Tower. Issue date: Monday May 16, 2022 (Jonathan Brady/PA)
File photo dated 16/02/21 of the Grenfell Memorial Wall in the grounds of Kensington Aldridge Academy, London. A memorial garden where survivors can “remember together” looks likely to be created at the site of Grenfell Tower. Issue date: Monday May 16, 2022 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Bereaved relatives of the Grenfell Tower blaze have said they are “enraged” by Government plans to keep the controversial “stay put” policy instead of adopting an inquiry recommendation.

Grenfell United has criticised new Home Office papers which outline its reasons for retaining the policy – meaning that residents of most buildings should wait for rescue services rather than leaving in the event of a fire.

This goes against a recommendation from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry – published in October 2019 – which advises the Government to place a legal obligation on building owners to outline Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for residents in the event of a fire.

Grenfell United, which represents people affected by the 2017 tragedy, described the response as “a disgrace” for putting disabled people at risk.

The group said: “We are enraged at the Government, whose sole focus continues to be profit and not public safety.

“We’ve fought for years to create a legacy for our 72 loved ones, and to prevent another Grenfell.

“But five years on, the Government has reverted back to the same policy in place before Grenfell.

Grenfell Tower inquiry
Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London (Rick Findler/PA)

“This policy resulted in 41% of those living with disabilities dying at Grenfell.

“It left them with no personal evacuation plan and no means of escape.

“They didn’t stand a chance. This report is a disgrace.

“Disabled people have the right to leave their homes safely.

“The Government must implement the recommendation from the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Inquiry and ensure personal evacuation plans for disabled residents.”

Fire Reform White Paper
Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks to firefighter during a visit to Old Kent Road Fire Station, Southwark, south east London on Wednesday (Yui Mok/PA)

In a consultation document published on Wednesday, the Home Office said it believed the cost of adopting the PEEPs policy would not be “proportionate” and that it would not be “practical” or “safe” to implement.

The department said the “stay put” policy is in place for buildings which are “designed to give appropriate protection” from fire so it is “generally safer” for residents to wait for emergency services to rescue them.

It said this knowledge, combined with safety reforms in the Building Safety Bill means “it would not be proportionate to mandate” the inquiry’s recommendation.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) Commissioner Andy Roe described PEEPs as a “key recommendation” from the inquiry and urged the Government to prioritise it.

Fire Reform White Paper
Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe (second right) during visit to visit Old Kent Road Fire Station (Yui Mok/PA)

He said: “It’s vitally important that people feel safe in their own homes and have certainty about how to leave their building in the event of a fire or other emergency.

“Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) were a key recommendation from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and we want to work with Government, communities and other partners to make progress on evacuation plans.”

Mr Roe added it is “extremely concerning” that more than 1,000 residential buildings in the capital still have serious fire safety failings – and warned rogue property owners LFB will crack down on them using powers granted in the Fire Safety Act 2021, which came into force this week.

He welcomed other parts of the consultation which adopt several of the inquiry’s other recommendations, including transferring fire governance to an elected individual who will oversee chief fire officers.

The Home Office also said it will “improve the professionalism of the fire and rescue service through modern workforce practices” and “potentially” establish a College of Fire and Rescue.

Fire Reform White Paper
Home Secretary Priti Patel during a visit to Old Kent Road Fire Station, Southwark, south east London (Yui Mok/PA)

During a visit to Old Kent Road Fire Station in Southwark, south east London, Home Secretary Priti Patel said London was “scarred” by the Grenfell Tower fire and that the fire service must “learn constantly”.

She told the PA news agency: “I think, you know, there’s no doubt London has been scarred.

“I think the London fire service has been as well, look at the inquiries that have ensued and been undertaken.

“Just look at the learnings that have come out of that and the sheer trauma, the sheer trauma for families as well.

“We have to be very respectful and reflective of that, we really do.

“But what I would say is that it is vitally important that the service never stands still, and that the service learns constantly.”

The Home Office has said it has launched a new consultation, in response to the previous consultation on PEEPs, to arrange an “alternative package of proposals to support the fire safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised”.

A spokesperson said one proposal is for designated fire safety residents in the highest risk buildings, and for fire services to be provided with up-to-date information on where the most vulnerable residents live within buildings.

The inquiry published 46 recommendations in 2019, of which 21 have now been incorporated into law, according to the Home Office.