Following the tragic Grenfell fire in London in 2017, a Ministerial Working Group (MWG) was set up by the Scottish Government. The Group oversaw a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, and other relevant matters, in order to help ensure that people are safe in Scotland's buildings. As part of this work, there was a 'Review of the Fire Safety High Rise Domestic Buildings in Scotland'. This resulted in six recommendations, one of which was the introduction of fire safety guidance for Specialised Housing.
While no major gaps in legislation were identified, it recommended that fire safety guidance for specialised housing was needed to protect vulnerable people and that it should be person-centred.
Specialised Housing includes:
- Sheltered housing, defined as "providing self-contained residential accommodation for older people, and where some form of assistance is available at all times, though not necessarily from persons on the premises",
- "Very sheltered" or "extra-care" housing, defined as involving "managed on-site care and support service, commonly on a 24-hour basis. This includes premises described as very sheltered housing, "housing with care", "assisted living" and "integrated care and housing (ICH)" or, where support is linked to a care home, "close care housing".
- Supported housing, defined as dwellings "designed for vulnerable people with common characteristics, living as part of a community with support that is normally, but not necessarily, provided on a 24 -hour basis. This includes housing for groups of people with learning or physical disabilities and mental health issues, but not "hostel"-type accommodation for groups such as homeless people, victims of domestic violence or ex-offenders. Residents may live independently or as a single group.
In addition to the above, the Guidance also applies to similar premises where vulnerable people live, such as small care homes and it will also be useful for people living in "general needs" housing who receive a "care at home" service.
Protecting vulnerable people from fire is the aim. Having accessible and effective fire safety guidance is therefore key. The Guidance advocates both a person-centred and a premises-based approach. The person-centred approach is based on a risk assessment of individual residents within their own private accommodation, taking account of personal characteristics and results in a person-specific action plan. The premises based approach assesses the building-wide related fire risks which may pose a risk to life safety.
Some premises which fall within the scope of the Guidance are subject to fire safety legislation, such as small care homes and some forms of supported housing. For them, the premises-based risk assessment is a legal requirement
The Guidance has Appendices that include templates for fire risk assessments, a matrix of responsibilities and examples of fire safety advice and fire action notices, as well as more detailed guidance on the storage of mobility scooters, which can be a significant fire hazard.
The Guidance is primarily for those responsible for specialised housing and similar premises and for those who provide care and support services in such premises. In this context, individuals and stakeholders affected by the Guidance include:
- Residents / tenants
- Independent/private sector housing providers
- Housing associations
- Local authority housing providers
- Managing agents or facilities managers
- Care and support providers
- Local authority service commissioners
- Enforcement Officers in local housing authorities
- Enforcement Officers and Community Safety staff of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
- Advice agencies
- Consultants/contractors carrying out fire safety risk assessments
- Other people with responsibility for Fire Safety
- Anyone else with views including relatives of people who live in specialised housing
Gathering the views of housing and care providers, care commissioners and regulators, is therefore important.
The Fire and Rescue Unit of the Scottish Government's Safer Communities Division, launched a consultation that ran from 31 July 2019 to 22 October 2019. It received responses from 38 respondents: Local Authority housing providers (8), housing associations (6), Independent/private sector housing providers (1), Care and support providers (2), Enforcement Officers and Community Safety staff of the 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).. Two housing associations provided a joint response.
It should be noted that it could not be determined whether the responding local authorities are housing providers or service commissioners. For the purpose of this report, therefore, all local authority responses were categorised as housing provider responses. 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:
- Presentation/Workshop with Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) Housing Support Enabling Unit on 27 August 2019,
- Presentation and questions with SFRS on 18 September 2019,
- Presentation and questions with Wheatley Group and other care/support agencies on 8 October 2019.