The Government has rejected a recommendation from the inquiry into the Grenfell fire that would have required owners of high-rise flats to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEP) for disabled residents.
Some 15 of the 72 people who died at Grenfell had disabilities. None had a PEEP.
But, in its response to a consultation on PEEPs, the Home Office said they were not proportionate nor practical.
The response concluded: ‘We have given careful consideration to the general equality duty, but the concerns around practicality, proportionality and the safety case have led us to conclude that mandating PEEPs, as described in the consultation at this time could, in fact, have a detrimental effect on those with certain protected characteristics.'
The campaign group Grenfell United said the Government had ‘decided that cutting costs is more important than the value of human life'.
Responding on Twitter, Grenfell United said the decision had ‘left us speechless. Outraged'.
Legal advice to the Local Government Association (LGA) earlier this year suggested existing case law based on the Equality Act 2010 still seems to place a responsibility on councils to plan for the evacuation of disabled residents by drawing up PEEPs.
Chair of the LGA's fire services management committee, Ian Stephens, said there needed to be an 'obligation on landlords to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of disabled residents'.
The Home Office has launched another consultation on an alternative package of proposals, which would require designated individuals responsible for fire safety for the highest risk buildings to assess the needs of their most vulnerable residents and consider what might ‘reasonably be done to mitigate any risks to fire safety'.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The emergency evacuation information sharing (EEIS) package we are consulting on would require those responsible for fire safety in higher risk buildings to properly assess the needs of the most vulnerable and take steps to mitigate any risks.'
However, Cllr Stephens said: 'We support EEIS in these buildings as a back-up safety measure, but it cannot be the first option.
'This is not what the Grenfell Inquiry intended when making its recommendations.
'We would question its legality and are aware that the fire service also has serious reservations about the practicality of relying on rescue in the first instance.
'There is a need for comprehensive guidance on this issue from the Government – who have a legal obligation to ensure it is provided – which needs to take full account of the obligations arising from the Equalities Act.'