NOT ONE of the social housing blocks granted building safety funding have had their remediation work completed yet, the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have revealed.
Almost five years after the Grenfell Tower fire which claimed the lives of 72 men, women and children families living in council homes have been left in perilous danger, not being able to sleep at night for fear that they will not wake up in the morning.
Their buildings which have been deemed unsafe because of multiple fire risks, including lack of fire escapes and flammable cladding and insulation are still fire traps, the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have revealed.
The details emerged in a government update on Building Safety Fund figures, which showed that none of the remediation work on the 47 social sector buildings where remediation work has started has been completed, compared to 15 out of 90 private sector buildings.
Of the 168 buildings on which remediation work has started, 18 have been completed.
Of the 31 buildings with both aluminium composite material (ACM) and non-ACM cladding systems that have had remediation start on site, three have been completed.
The Building Safety Fund was launched in May 2020 after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government would be providing £1 billion in funding to remove dangerous non-ACM cladding from buildings taller than 18 metres.
In 2021, the government announced that it would be increasing the funding by £3.5bn. Last week housing secretary Michael Gove said he would raising a further £4bn from developers to go towards the removal of unsafe cladding on buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall.
So far the government has approved £976 million for the remediation of non-ACM cladding – £851m for the private sector and £125m for the social sector.
However, as of 31 December 2021, the Building Safety Fund’s total expenditure, including social and private sector spend, was only £219m.
The fund has so far received 2,825 private sector registrations, of which 791 (862 buildings) are proceeding with an application for funding.
Of the 218 social sector grant claims reviewed, just over half (108) have been approved
Meanwhile Bupa Care Services (ANS) Ltd, which runs the Manley Court care home in Brockley, south-east London, was fined £937,500 for fire safety failings and ordered to pay £104,000 prosecution costs after Cedric Skyers died while smoking unsupervised.
Handed down at Southwark Crown Court earlier this month after the London Fire Brigade (LFB) brought forward the prosecution, it is the highest ever fine for fire safety breaches in the UK.
Bupa pleaded guilty to fire safety breaches and accepted that staff had failed to assess the risks of Skyers’ emollient creams, which can be flammable if allowed to build up on skin, clothing or bedding.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) brought forward the case after attending the incident in March 2016.
Skyers, a 69-year-old wheelchair user, died after catching fire while smoking unsupervised in a shelter in the garden of the home.
A subsequent investigation found that as well as the lack of assessment of the fire risk of his creams, burn marks from previous incidents were found on Mr Skyers’ clothing after his death.
Care home staff said they had not been aware of these. They said that if they had been, they would have ensured more regular checks were made when he was smoking.
Paul Jennings, assistant commissioner for fire safety at the LFB, said the ‘harrowing’ case was a ‘tragic example of what the devastating consequences’ of failing to to comply with fire safety regulations can be.
He added the home could have put a number of measures in place to mitigate the fire risks to Skyers, but ‘none’ were implemented.
‘Mr Skyers’ family should rightly have been able to trust that he would be safe in a care home, when sadly the opposite was true,’ Jennings stated.
He said the large fine ‘highlights the seriousness’ of Bupa’s failure to protect a vulnerable resident in its care.
‘If there can be anything constructive to come from this, we hope that it will be that anyone who has a legal responsibility for fire safety in a building – whether as a landlord, property manager, care home provider or any other setting – takes note and makes sure they are complying with the law,’ he said.
Donald Day, operations director at Manley Court, said: ‘Our thoughts and condolences are with Mr Skyers’ family.
‘Following this tragic accident in 2016, we took immediate action across all our care homes to prevent it from happening again.
‘We take fire safety extremely seriously and have in place detailed risk assessments for all our residents that smoke, increased supervision and we ensure our teams are regularly trained in fire safety measures.
‘The well-being of residents in our care is always our priority and we are committed to keeping everyone in our homes safe.’
- Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH) failed to comply with the public sector equality duty over its decision to continue with eviction proceedings against a resident with a mental health condition, a judge has ruled.
The Court of Appeal has quashed MTVH’s possession claim and said the failure of the landlord to review its decision has led to three court cases and the ‘squandering of scarce resources’.
MTVH said it is taking the outcome of this case ‘very seriously’ and is updating its internal processes and arranging additional staff training in response to the judgement.
The case concerns an individual, identified as TM in the judgement, who has lived in supported housing owned by MTVH since February 2014.
The resident has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and treatment-resistant paranoid schizophrenia.
MTVH brought a possession claim against the individual following an incident in which an employee of Sanctuary which was contracted by MTVH to provide support at the development was assaulted.
The tenant hit the employee on the side of the face and jaw. The employee had to take six weeks off work as a result of the injury and the incident led to Sanctuary withdrawing support.
A number of other incidents regarding the resident were raised by MTVH during the initial possession hearing, including one in which TM briefly exposed himself to a female resident.
During the possession hearing, representatives of defending TM argued that MTVH had breached the public sector equality duty by failing to re-evaluate its decision after receiving a report from TM’s psychiatrist regarding their mental state.
Under the Equality Act 2010, the public sector equality duty requires public bodies, including housing associations, to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the act
- Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
- Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
In recent years, the duty has increasingly become the focus of court cases involving housing possession and homelessness applications.
MTVH initially decided to issue possession proceedings against TM in June 2018.
Following this, the organisation prepared an Equalities Act Report to be review by an MTVH anti-social behaviour officer, Jeremy Print, who would decide whether the eviction should proceed.
The report concluded that TM was ‘aware of his actions’ and that keeping him in his home would present ‘a high risk to other residents, staff and any contractors attending’.
MTVH also made an attempt to receive information from TM’s psychiatrist, Dr Koch, about TM’s mental state, but no such report was received before Mr Print took the decision to proceed with the possession hearing.
Koch did provide MTVH with a report at a later date, however the association did not re-evaluate its decision upon receiving it.
According to the judgement, the psychiatrist’s report said TM continued to experience schizophrenia, and as a result was not fit to instruct a solicitor and that taking part in proceedings would have a negative impact on his mental state and behaviour.
The recorder overseeing the case found that MTVH had breached the equality duty by failing to reconsider the case after seeing this report.
However, the County Court decided to grant the eviction as it was argued that Mr Print had re-evaluated his decision while giving evidence to the hearing.
TM’s representatives appealed this decision.
A High Court judge then ruled on the side of MTVH, however the Court of Appeal has now ruled on the side of TM.
TM remained in the accommodation while the outcome of each appeal was pending.
The Court of Appeal said it was wrong to say MTVH’s breach of the equality duty was remedied during the possession hearing as Print stated during that hearing that he did not think he would have pursued possession proceedings if he had to make the decision again.
It was therefore ruled that the possession claim against TM should be dismissed.
The judgment also criticised MTVH for failing to deal with the case internally.
It said: ‘Here the claimant is legally aided, and the respondent is in receipt of public funds performing a public law service and duty.
‘This appeal amounts to a third level of judicial intervention. The costs incurred are significant, both to the public purse and in terms of court resources.’
The judge said: ‘I fail to understand why, when Dr Koch’s report was received in October 2018, there was no internal re-review of the decision to continue with the possession proceedings … An independent, objective, review by a fresh pair of eyes can bring a dispute to a swift solution avoiding hard-fought litigation.
‘The failure to have such a system in place has led in this case to the squandering of scarce resources far better deployed elsewhere.’