To strengthen fire safety in Specialised Housing and similar premises, the Scottish Government has drafted a new, comprehensive fire safety guidance document ("the Guidance"). For the purpose of the Guidance, Specialised Housing includes:
- Sheltered housing;
- "Very sheltered" or "extra-care" housing;
- Supported housing
The Guidance is primarily aimed at those who are responsible for Specialised Housing and similar premises and for those who provide care and support services in such premises. The Guidance is also relevant and useful to commissioners of care services, building owners, managing agents, fire risk assessors and others.
The Guidance is structured around two assessment methodologies which determine the fire risk level in Specialised Housing: the premises based fire safety risk assessment and the person-centred fire safety risk assessment.
The premises-based assessment involves the assessment of building-wide fire risks by a competent person to ensure adequate fire safety measures are in place. The person-based assessment determines the risk faced by individual residents from fire in their own private accommodation and results in an action plan tailored to the individual's needs. The person-based assessment is not a legal requirement, but is strongly encouraged as good practice in the Guidance. Both assessments are to be regularly reviewed.
In addition, the Guidance includes Appendices that provide templates to carry out the person-based and premises-based assessments and further information, for example, more detailed guidance on the storage and use of mobility scooters.
To gauge the views of stakeholders and other interested parties and improve the Guidance, the Scottish Government carried out a consultation from 31 July 2019 to 22 October 2019.
The consultation received responses from a total of 38 respondent organisations. The responses came from local authority housing providers (8), Housing associations (6), Independent/private sector housing providers (1), Care and support providers (1), Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (1), Advice agencies (15), Consultants/contractors carrying out fire safety risk assessments (2) and people with views on the subject, including those with relatives living in Specialised Housing (3), Managing agents or facilities managers (1). No residents or tenants responded to the consultation.
The Scottish Government Fire and Rescue Unit engaged with key groups in a number of consultation events throughout the summer of 2019 to discuss the key elements, promote participation in the consultation and to seek early views to help shape the structure and content of the Guidance.
Public Consultation Responses
The Guidance was, in general, well received and deemed necessary and useful by all respondent groups. In addition, no respondent group voiced concerns of being disproportionately affected. As such, most comments sought further clarification e.g. on the types of dwellings in scope or to use less technical language. Further editorial suggestions included providing weblinks to relevant legislation, a succinct description of landlord/housing provider responsibilities and a summary of the Appendices. Ideas for disseminating the Guidance included distributing it to all social landlords and to have it disseminated by the Fire and Rescue Service and other stakeholders, such as the Care Inspectorate.
In terms of impact, many respondents agreed that improved safety is a key benefit of the Guidance. Financial benefits related to a reduced number of fires/reduced insurance premiums. A number of respondents expect increased costs, such as from additional staff training or the need to hire external experts to carry out fire safety risk assessments.
Few respondents gave information on how many premises and people would be affected. Nevertheless, the information provided reflected a considerable number of premises (ranging from 3 to 5,000) and people (ranging from 70 to 8,000). The low response to these questions may also be explained by the high number of respondents that are not housing providers, such as advice agencies. For the purpose of this report, advice agencies have been defined as organisations that may be involved in interest representation such as trade associations and national associations, as well as (non-fire safety) scrutiny bodies and charities.
In terms of content, the premises-based and person-based methodologies were deemed helpful by the respondents. There was no clear commitment from respondents that they would carry out person-based assessments, with the exception of one Independent/private sector housing provider (150 premises and 8,000 people) and one local authority housing provider (no further information). The Appendices were seen as useful.
Based on the consultation responses, the Guidance has been positively received by stakeholders and interested parties. Many respondents will still need to assess what the Guidance will mean for them in practice, particularly regarding additional costs and the number of premises and people affected. One Independent/private sector housing provider and one local authority housing provider indicated their intention to carry out a person-based assessment, but this does not mean that others may not do so as well, possibly following the completion of further impact assessments. In addition, a person-based risk assessment may not be required for all residents.