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Grenfell Landlord ‘Did Not Create Escape Plans For Disabled Residents’

May 7, 2021

The Grenfell Tower landlord did not create escape plans for disabled residents and instead relied on telling people to “stay put” despite recent fires in two of its other towers requiring evacuations, the inquiry into the 2017 disaster has heard.

Teresa Brown, the director of housing at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMP) from 2014 to 2018, was close to tears when she admitted that the landlord had not considered personal evacuation plans to get the most vulnerable people out.

The “stay put” policy in place at Grenfell Tower has already been identified by the inquiry as increasing the death toll. Fifteen of the 37 residents classed as vulnerable in the block were among the 72 killed.

Brown was questioned about fires in 2015 and 2016 at Adair Tower, a Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council block, and Shepherds Court, in nearby Hammersmith and Fulham, which both required evacuations. Counsel to the inquiry, Andrew Kinnear QC, asked if they prompted her to consider the need for evacuation plans for vulnerable residents elsewhere.

“I’m afraid it didn’t because in my experience the fire brigade arrived and they made the decision to move from stay put to evacuation and it worked,” she said.

Brown said the landlord was following national guidance published by the Local Government Association that said “stay put works”.

“It is easy to look back in hindsight but we were operating according to that guidance in a way that other organisations across the country were,” she said.

Lawyers for the bereaved and survivors have described the fire as “a landmark act of discrimination against disabled and vulnerable people”.

Although 52 of the 120 flats had disabled occupants, a TMO document on the night of the fire only listed 10 disabled residents.

Hisam Choucair, whose mother, Sirria, used a stick and was among six of his family members to die, has told the public inquiry he was “shocked that there does not appear to have been any consideration of my mother’s needs” when it housed her on the 22nd floor.

Mahboubeh Jamalvatan, a disabled mother of two who lived on the third floor, said she had had to bump down the stairs on her bottom to escape.

Kinnear asked if Brown’s team was aware it could refer residents for evaluation of a personal evacuation plan. She said no, adding “because of our stay put policy – we weren’t expecting to evacuate”.

She said the London fire brigade did not raise the need for the evacuation plans at Grenfell, adding: “If they had I would have done it.”

The inquiry saw an internal document about the landlord’s “vulnerability policy” which described the process of drawing up personal emergency evacuation plans as “mainly ad hoc and self-nominated”.

Brown said they did not publicise the fact that residents could ask for a plan. The inquiry continues on Monday.

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