Friday 12 March 2021

UPDATED WITH COUNCIL STATEMENT: Disabled South Kilburn pensioner still has no PEEP despite applying to Brent Council 6 months ago

John Healy, a disabled pensioner on the South Kilburn Estate has been given the run-around by Brent Council in his attempts to get them to issue a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) to safeguard his life in the event of a fire. He contacted me in desperation after getting nowehere with councillors, housing officers and his MP:

I am grateful for anything that you might be able to help me with, including contacting the council on my behalf.   I sent my completed PEEP to the council last September but they have not contacted me about it.  Since them my mobility has got much worse and I am now housebound.

I keep ringing them and emailing the council and also my Kilburn Ward councillors  but no one replies. I escalated it by contacting my MP but she has not replied either, although she did sent me an automated email saying she had received my email and would get back to me sometime.

Inside Housing had a story last Friday, on how several disabled people died trapped in their homes in Grenfell tower and I could be facing the same situation in my block as no one can ever predict when a fire may break out.


I offered John Healy a chance to tell his own story on Wembley Matters. Here it is:


I am a 70 year old male, living on my own in a South Kilburn high-rise, with a mobility issue and a hearing impairment (in both ears) I am registered with Brent Council as a disabled person but unfortunately I also caught the Covid  back in early March 2020 which has worsened my mobility issues and at the end of Feb. 2021 my legs felt they like they had lead attached to them and the result was I was unable to walk at all. I had been asking the council for a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) for over 6 months but they will not issue me with one.


I need a PEEP urgently in case my high-rise needs an emergency evacuation e.g a severe fire and I would need the assistance of someone to help me evacuate my flat but without having a PEEP no one will be aware of my situation. I assume there will be many more disabled people in Brent needing a PEEP which the council needs to respond to immediately, as it could be a matter of life and death.



Currently Parliament is set to make it a legal requirement (Ref: The Fire Safety Bill) for all councils in England to issue a PEEP to all disabled people living in high rises who need one.  They will use a 'traffic light system' that will identify the risk level of every disabled person living in a high rise flat e.g. red for people with mobility issues and green for people with hearing impairments.


Although I am not a leaseholder myself, I am a member of the disabled leaseholders group who have been campaigning to get the government to pay for the removal of dangerous cladding from their own high rises but some of them also need a PEEP,  I have submitted a question to the panel at next week's cladding meeting on Zoom (see WM post below for details) where I have asked the panel, "Why does Brent Council refuse to issue me with a PEEP?" and hopefully both my MP's might give me a response.  I have previously sent three emails to my MP but she has not replied yet. That is ok as I know she is very busy dealing with other serious issues all of the time.


It appears that my high -rise has even fewer Fire Prevention measures than were in situ at Grenfell e.g we do not even have any fire alarms that could alert all our residents if a fire was to break out and help them to evacuate more quickly.  The council have also said it would be a waste of money to install sprinklers in my high-rise, as it is due to be demolished in 2026/27 as part of the South Kilburn Regeneration programme.


At Larkanal in 2009 everyone who died were not disabled but were families with children and they were told to remain in their 4th floor flats and wait for the fire service to come & rescue them - they were burnt alive. Some people might not think being on the 5th floor is high enough to be a threat but the Grenfell fire started on the 4th floor. But for me it is about evacuating myself down our only fire escape, unable to see in the smoke and with everyone non-disabled in a hurry to get out and I might be in their way due to my slow pace.


Several disabled people at Grenfell had this experience for real and they described being knocked over by others trying to escape


When I first moved into the block in 1993 the council had a policy saying no one with a disability should be housed above the 4th floor but they said 4th  or 5th - what's the difference?  But it could be difficult to escape if you cannot walk even if you are only one floor up.


Brent Council has not implemented any of the Fire Safety Risks – Means of Escape for Disabled People (2007) LINK  measures in my tower block and I assume in the other 37 high rises in Brent.  e.g. my block does not even have a Fire Alarm.


Finally, The London Fire Brigade believes that everyone will be safe if sprinklers are installed in every high rise across London and that every council should install them without delay.  But it seems the council do not consider that my life and my fellow residents are worth saving, as they have decided we are expendable.  But if the council were to issue me with a PEEP, at least it would increase my chances of surviving, unlike all the disabled residents who tragically lost their lives at The Grenfell Tower in 2017…


Disability Rights UK has  insisted that disabled people in high rise flats should have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan. LINK  


Time for some action.


Today (March 17th) Brent Council responded to Wembley Matters with the statement below. Kilburn ward councillors have not  yet  reacted to an offer to publish their response:


A Brent Council spokesperson said: "Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEP) are essential for anyone who may need assistance in the unlikely event of being advised to leave a building because of fire. We're concerned that something seems to have gone wrong here and have contacted Mr Healy to put it right.

"Last year, we proactively reached out to all tenants, asking anyone who needed assistance to complete a PEEP. We don't seem to have received a PEEP from Mr Healy and will be investigating what has gone wrong here, along with Mr Healy's comments about not being able to reach us.

"If any Brent Council tenant, who does not already have a PEEP, and would require assistance in a fire evacuation, we urge them to contact or call 020 8937 1234."


Unknown said...

what is concerning is the nonchalant way the officers have treated John's perfectly reasonable request for this. I believe he has been treated as a nuisance until very recently and even now he is being fobbed off.
Brent Housing has a legal duty to protect their tenants from possible danger and to take the individuals needs into account when formulating a safety plan with the tenant.
If tenants concerns had been listened to by the TMO responsible for Grenfell Tower things could have turned out very differently. Let's avoid history repeating itself.

Martin Francis said...

From Disability Rights UK (March 11th)

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommended that disabled people have Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans that can be implemented in the event of fire. The fire saw the death of 72 people some of whom were disabled people not able to safely evacuate the building.

Last year, the Government was set to ignore this recommendation, however following a judicial review taken by the family of a disabled person, who died in the fire, the Government agreed to bring forward proposals on Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans. These proposals will be consulted on later this year.

In the meantime, the British Standards Institute produced fire safety guidance saying that Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans for disabled people were unpracticable. Following the threat of Judicial Review, this guidance has been withdrawn.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy said “It is totally unacceptable that disabled people in all forms of housing are having to live with the fear of fire, without plans being in place to ensure our safe evacuation. There is considerable legislation regulating housing and it is inconceivable that escape at the time of fire for disabled people, isn’t part of the regulatory framework.”

For more information visit the Inside Housing website.

Philip Grant said...

I agree entirely with Unknown (12 March at 23:20).

Anonymous said...

This does sound like a very stressful situation for the resident.

Martin, in the interests of responsible journalism, have you approached the ward councillors, and/or the council for comment?

Martin Francis said...

Hi, the lack of response from them is the problem high-lighted. I contacted the councillors for comment over the weekend and they haven't replied. Brent Council has it in hand and I hope to hear soon.

Anonymous said...

My point was that you have only published one side of this story and do not appear to have attempted to verify what you have been told. What will you do if it transpires that this resident’s account proves incomplete or even unreliable? You’ve already published and have only seemingly approached either the council or councillors AFTER having put this matter into the public domain. That is not responsible journalism. And being blogger should not absolve you of those responsibilities. The story may prove entirely accurate. But even if so, that will be more by luck than judgement.

Martin Francis said...

I have been in correspondence with John for some time over his situation and am satisfied that his account is reliable. I have also in the past referred it to not only his ward councillor but other councillors in order to help resolve the matter. This is a campaigning blog and one of its objectives is giving a voice to the unheard. John has turned to me for support when other routes have failed.

Anonymous said...

Criticism of your methods aside I do hope John gets resolution soon.

Also, I appreciate your publishing these comments - would be easy not to.

Martin Francis said...

After seeing the Council statement aboive John Healy wrote to me: The council did ask me to return my PEEP last September, which I did. I think the officer who sent it to me was named X (My edit MF).

So after about a month with no replies, I started sending emails to the council, as I was still doing upto Monday the 15th March inclusive.

They have not been in contact since Monday, even though I half expected to get the plan in the post today.