The Home Office is facing a judicial review over its decision to ignore a Grenfell Tower inquiry's recommendation to implement personal emergency evacuation plans for disabled people.
Members of Claddag, a group of residents who are disabled or have health conditions and are living in homes affected by the cladding and building safety crisis, have sent a pre-action protocol letter that argues the decision is a breach of the public sector equality duty and the European Convention on Human Rights.
In October 2019, a consultation on Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) made the following recommendations in relation to disabled residents:
"e)[…] that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law…to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised (such as persons with reduced mobility or cognition)."; and
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."
The Prime Minister initially said he supported adopting all of the recommendations made in the report.
However, in May 2022, the Home Office published its response to the PEEPS consultation, which detailed plans not to implement the two recommendations concerning evacuating disabled people. It said this was due to concerns around safety, practicality, and proportionality.
Instead, it announced it would introduce "an alternative package of initiatives that supports the fire safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised".
The decision prompted Claddag's founders, Sarah Rennie and Georgie Hulme, to pursue a legal challenge.
Late last month (30 May), their lawyers, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, wrote in a pre-action protocol letter that it is "difficult to convey the degree of upset, outrage and betrayal felt by affected disabled persons and Bereaved, Survivors and Residents of Grenfell, including those who lost loved ones with disabilities in the fire at Grenfell Tower, as a result of your client's decision taken on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the fire."
The letter outlined the following grounds of argument:
- Failure to have regard to the key rationale (and expert evidential foundation) for the Chair's PEEPs recommendations;
- Breach of legitimate expectation by failing to consult on departure from the PEEPs recommendations;
- Unfairness in the PEEPs consultation process, which has deprived consultees of a fair opportunity to address fundamental matters relied on in the decision;
- Breach of the public sector equality duty in s.149 of the Equality Act 2010;
- Breach of Article 2 and/or Article 14 (read with Article 2) of the European Convention on Human Rights ("ECHR") in failing to put in place an adequate system to safeguard the life of disabled residents in the event of fire and/or in failing to cater for the different needs of disabled persons unable to independently evacuate from high-rise residential buildings.
The letter called upon the Home Office to confirm that it will withdraw the decision and commit to implementing the PEEPs recommendations.
It also asked for an explanation of the decision-making process between the closure of the PEEPs consultation and the decision in question.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Our fire reforms will go further than ever before to protect vulnerable people as we are determined to improve the safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised.
"That is why we have launched a new public consultation seeking views on an alternative package of initiatives, building on the information garnered from the Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans consultation, that enhance the safety of those residents."