A new campaign group formed of disabled leaseholders living in blocks with dangerous cladding and other fire safety issues have demanded a meeting with Robert Jenrick in a bid to address some of the issues they face.
Clad DAG said there could be thousands of disabled leaseholders affected by the cladding crisis (picture: Getty)
The Leaseholder Disability Action Group, also known as Clad DAG, have written to the housing secretary calling on him to meet with them to discuss some of the additional issues faced by disabled leaseholders caught up in the cladding scandal and outline how the government plans to help.
The group also wants the government confirm that an equality impact assessment has been carried out for disable leaseholders in these blocks and to show that mitigation measures are being looked into to help this section of leaseholders with the issues they face.
The letter comes as pressure is ramping up on the government to take action to protect leaseholders from the costs facing them as a result of the cladding scandal. Inside Housing has spoken to dozens of leaseholders unable to sell their homes and are facing bills worth tens of thousands of pounds to remove dangerous cladding and fix other fire safety defects.
However, the experiences of disabled residents have been scarcely been heard across the coverage.
Clad DAG, which was set up just before Christmas, said there could be thousands of leaseholders with disabilities currently affected by the cladding crisis. It said its purpose is to show the practical and complex ways disabled people are trapped in their homes, physically and financially.
Within the letter the group outlined some of the key issues faced, including fears around emergency evacuations in the event of a fire. It argued that there is currently not enough protection or guidance for those with mobility issues in high rises to ensure that they can be evacuated from a building safely.
The letter used an example of one wheelchair-bound member who lives on the 13th floor of her block and has only recently been told that the firefighting lift in her block does not meet fire standards and she must use the steps in the event of a fire.
As part of his phase one report on the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry, chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick recommended that all disabled people living in high rises should be offered personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs).
However, in July last year, a government consultation on the proposals proposed that evacuation plans for disabled people should be required in buildings with known safety issues and a waking watch – a significant watering down of the recommendation. Inside Housing revealed last month that this decision came after significant lobbying by the fire and housing sector against the recommendation, saying it was impractical.
Clad DAG also raised the issue of extortionate fire safety bills being faced by leaseholders. It said that for disabled leaseholders these costs are often even more insurmountable due to disabled people “more likely to be supported by state benefits” or in flats that their families have supported them to buy or left them.
The letter says that the current stress being caused by the current situation is resulting in significant deterioration in mental and physical health.
It used one example of a leaseholder who has seen an increase in the number of unresponsive episodes she is having, with their neuro team and other doctors concluding these are caused by increased stress. In one scenario the person was unresponsive for 12 hours in their flat.
Many disabled leaseholders have spent thousands of pounds to adapt their flats to suit their needs, including bathroom and kitchen adaptations, with these often being funded through local authority disabled facilities grants. The letter said that using these funds to adapt defective buildings is a serious issue.
Sarah Rennie, co-founder of Clad DAG, said: “We want to understand what measures the government is proposing to ensure disabled people are safe and not disproportionately affected.
“After the lives lost at Grenfell and the treatment disabled people during the pandemic – from ‘do not resuscitate’ pressure to a lack of PPE [personal protective equipment] for clinically vulnerable people – this is a chance for the government to demonstrate that our lives are, in fact, valued.”