Professionals want to ensure a Grenfell tragedy never happens again.

There are some events so huge they have a profound impact on the nation. The fire at Grenfell Tower a year ago is one of those rare events. The scale of the tragedy was so vast, and the human pain we felt so raw and immediate, that we all, in our anger, knew things had to change.

If that was generally true, it was even more so for those of us who work in housing. If you lead an organisation that provides homes, your worst nightmare is that someone dies because of actions or decisions you have made, or failed to make. Grenfell was that nightmare at a level beyond imagination or comprehension. The sense that we had to make sure it never happened again remains real and profound.

Grenfell was that nightmare at a level beyond imagination or comprehension

Since the fire, the sector has been checking and re-examining how safe our buildings are. This was most urgent for those who own or manage high-rise buildings, but it was true for everyone. Many housing associations with two- or three-storey street properties have carried out new fire and safety risk assessments. Fire wardens have been deployed and updated information provided to residents.

At a national level, we have engaged with government, the Grenfell public inquiry and Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety. Despite significant challenges and obstacles, remedial work has started on two thirds of social housing blocks with combustible cladding and work on the remainder is planned.

Most importantly, though, we’ve learned this was a monumental system failure. The building control system failed. We’ve understood from the Hackitt report that the whole industry complied with a deeply flawed regulatory regime rather than taking ownership of being responsible for safety.

This has to change, in the social sector and the private sector – indeed, anywhere that people sleep. At an even more fundamental level, we learned that there is, in many places, a crisis of trust. Too many people feel they can’t trust their landlord, local authority, buildings or their government. Too many people, in social and privately owned blocks, feel voiceless and ignored.

Housing associations are determined to rebuild that trust and ensure communities not only feel they are listened to but are confident they can influence what happens to them.

 

Professionals want to ensure a Grenfell tragedy never happens again.

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