Briefing Note for Lessons from Grenfell Think Tank
The Housing Plus Academy wants to bring together tenants from high rise estates around the country to share their views of living in multi-storey blocks of flats. There are many positive reasons why flats are built and people make secure, welcoming homes in those communities.
But the Grenfell fire changed everything. It showed up the neglect, and lack of careful management of high rise blocks, the poor standard of repair and upgrading, the inadequate checks and misapplied fire safety measures, the lack of clear information and guidance to tenants, the conflicting advice and barriers to tenants getting their worries and fears and experience heard or acted on. The disaster has highlighted the lack of control over follow-on lettings from Right to Buy converting to profitable Buy-To-Let tenancies.
We aim to gather residents’ experiences, develop action plans for estates, clear messages to landlords and government and professional bodies. Everyone recognises now that the way social housing is run has to change. Tenants need to access their landlord to get their concerns heard.
Many follow through actions are already happening. Some tower blocks now have no gas supply for safety reasons. Some have been evacuated. Some are being stripped of their expensive cladding and tenants’ bills will inevitably rise as a result. We are preparing an information and resource pack to help tenants steer their way through often conflicting advice. We are asking fire services, building research bodies, recognised architects, surveyors and government to provide the clearest, most authoritative guidance, which we will turn into simple information sheets for the Think Tank.
We will also have on-hand support staff and advisers ready to help participants with specific problems. We very much hope that residents from estates facing these serious challenges will come as they will be able to help us understand the serious challenges, the barriers to overcoming them and ways forward.
We want tenants from diverse backgrounds, different age groups, different parts of the country, and different landlords all to join in this combined effort to draw the lessons from Grenfell and then persuade landlords, councils and government to apply them. There has to be a way forward that helps and we want to help find it. So please join us at Trafford Hall on October 30th-31st for a dedicated 24 hours in a peaceful, green environment, with help at hand. Together we can solve this problem.
The Tenant Think Tank costs £170 for tenants and leaseholders, and £190 for support workers. There is a reduced charge for a second member of the same group. We have a limited fund to support tenants who otherwise would not be able to attend. There are direct trains from London Euston to Chester taking two hours; and trains take around one hour from Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. You can reach Chester from all parts of the country including Scotland, Wales, the North East and South West. Advanced bookings and off-peak rail fares can be very cheap. Full details will be sent as soon as you book, including taxi share to Trafford Hall from the station.
|The Housing Plus Academy reflects the diversity of social housing among our staff, tenants and customers because we believe that diversity gives us access to better ideas, innovation and solutions. Recognising the benefits of diversity means that we would like to invite more people from a wide variety of backgrounds to join us. So, for example, if you have a different thinking style, are from an ethnic minority background, are younger, or perhaps you have a disability, your experience will be invaluable in keeping us current and relevant, and will be welcome.|
Lessons from Grenfell Think Tank
Day One: 30 October
2pm Registration. Tea and coffee will be available (lunch will not be provided)
2.30 – 3.15 pm Session 1: Introductory session
- Why the Grenfell fire disaster changed the way we think?
- Multi-storey flats need on-site management
- Essential safety measures in blocks of flats
- Why tower blocks are different?
- Why we need all the social housing we’ve got?
- Lessons from past disasters in high rise
3.15– 4.30 pm Session 2: Making high rise blocks work
- How does a private company run them?
- How do social landlords run them?
- Why do residents need to get involved?
- What makes a high rise blocks work?
- Table discussion: If you were in charge of a multi-storey block, how would you do it?
4.30 – 4.45 pm Refreshment break
4.45 – 6.15 pm Session 3: Making high rise safe and comfortable
- Basic fire safety, exit routes, alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinklers
- The human side of fire safety
- Knowing who lives in the block
- Door controls
- Knowing your neighbours
- Caretaking and maintenance
- Who can you call on in emergencies
- Table discussion: What’s missing? What works? Who is responsible? How to make it better? Who will pay?
6.15 – 6.45 pm Free time and networking
6.45 – 7.45pm Dinner in ballroom
7.45 pm onwards After-dinner exchange
- Interesting stories from your estate (inspiring tales, funny, sad, serious stories)
- Good things your landlord does
- Things you know should change
- What are the lessons from Grenfell?
- What did you learn from the aftermath of the disaster?
Day Two: 31 October
7.00 – 9.00 am Breakfast
9.00 – 10.00 am Session 4: The cost of living in high rise
- Many items are expensive to install and maintain – lifts, door controls, alarm systems, sprinklers, fire extinguishers
- Without cladding in high blocks, bills for heating are higher
- Repairs are more expensive and more complicated
- What can be done to reduce tenants’ bills? Why over-cladding is so important? How does it help?
- Why landlords shouldn’t and mustn’t cut corners
- Cladding and fire risk
- Table discussion: If you were renovating your estate, what would your priorities be?
10.00 – 11.00 am Session 5: Lettings to high rise blocks
- Problems with “open-door” needs based lettings e.g. families on high floors, extreme need/stigma
- Tenancy rules and enforcement; Why this matters?
- Lettings policies that fail
- Vulnerable young people and small children high off ground; leaseholder private lettings; troubled households and people with special needs; Student lets without supervision
- Lettings policies that work
- Strong vetting of who moves in & Full register of all occupants; Strong supervision of every block including student lets; Enforcement with legal action if necessary; Support for vulnerable tenants; Target lettings e.g. over 50s
- Table discussion: Should high rise be used for homeless families?
11.00 – 11.15 am Refreshment break
11.15 – 12.45 am Session 6: How tenants can make a difference?
- What strengths do tenants have that can be valuable?
- What weaknesses?
- What training do tenants need in safety, security, management, cladding, costs, training volunteers, etc.
- The role of scrutiny, tenant inspectors, block guardians
- Discussion: How to get more tenants involved? How to get messages through to landlords? How to get accurate information and other resources?
12.45 – 1.45pm Lunch and tour of Trafford Hall’s energy saving and improvement works
1.45– 2.45pm Session 7: Workshop on what residents can do – making an action plan on safety issues
- Working with the landlord
- Involving more tenants
- Learning about my estate
- Spreading the word
2:45 – 3:15 Brainstorm top ideas, round up, feedback
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01244 300246