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Disabled survivor of Grenfell Tower speaks out

16 July 2021

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Disability has heard the harrowing and powerful testimony of a Disabled woman, Shakila 'Flora' Neda, who survived the Grenfell Tower fire due to her son carrying her down 23 smoke-filled floors.

Shakila’s husband died in the fire, staying to protect other Disabled residents, who sought shelter in their top floor flat. They were waiting for a rescue which never came. Shakila and her son are the only two eyewitnesses who survived from the top floor. Over 20 other people from the top floor died in the fire.

Shakila spoke with the support of Kimia Zabihyan, Advocate and Co-ordinator of Grenfell Next of Kin. She spoke of poor building safety and fire precautions and the lack of evacuation plans for Disabled residents.

The Parliamentary meeting was held on the topic of Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for Disabled people unable to self-evacuate. It was addressed by the Minister, Lord Greenhalgh, who is responsible for the current consultation on PEEPs which ends on 19 July. The consultation seeks to implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations, which propose that building owners and managing agents be given a legal duty to produce PEEPs for those unable to self-evacuate. The Government was initially reluctant to implement this recommendation and an earlier consultation in 2020 was stopped by a judicial review.

The meeting also heard from fire safety expert, Elspeth Grant and campaigner, Sarah Rennie, co-founder of Claddag, the Leaseholder’s  Disability Action Group.

Elspeth and Sarah called for every Disabled resident unable to self-evacuate to have the right to a PEEP, to put the responsibility on the building owner and managing agent to alert residents to the importance of PEEPs and to ensure that there is a complaints process for Disabled people who were refused PEEPs or provided with an inadequate Plan. Sarah highlighted that there are currently 1.8 million people waiting for accessible housing.

Following the consultation, the Government will seek parliamentary approval for regulations on PEEPs.