By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
The Grenfell Tower tragedy must be a turning point for housing and health said Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) director for Northern Ireland Nicola McCrudden as the inquiry into the fire opened in London today.
The inquiry will examine the cause and spread of the fire which killed at least 80 people, high-rise regulations, and the actions of the local authority.
The head of the investigation, retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, will give a 45-minute statement which will be watched by residents and victims.
Ms McCrudden said: “The tragedy of Grenfell Tower has rightfully created a renewed focus on housing and health, and ensuring that these awful events never happen again. The victims and everyone affected by this tragedy are owed this, and more.”
Ms McCrudden said: “We need a UK-wide discussion about the value and the future of social housing.
“For every person who fears for their safety after the tragedy, there are many more who cannot secure a home or who are struggling to keep their home.
“Fundamentally, everyone deserves to live in a safe home. Everyone should be able to close their front door and know that they are out of harm’s way.”
Ms McCrudden was speaking ahead of the CIH annual conference on health and housing today in the La Mon Hotel, Belfast. She said ensuring that people were safe and secure in their homes went far beyond physical housing standards as highlighted by Grenfell.
She said: “We have an ageing population that wants to stay in their homes and communities. We need to adapt existing homes to meet their needs and ensure their wellbeing. We also need robust planning for more housing options for older people.
“Housing with care options can help people to regain independence and skills to care for themselves, including when they are discharged from hospital.
“Delays in discharging patients is one of the factors that prevents hospital beds being freed up, and increases pressure on A&E departments.
“Every waiting-list target in health is being missed in Northern Ireland. Housing can play a central role in relieving pressures on our health service, reducing demand for costly health and social care interventions.
“Stormont needs to get back up and running if we are serious about tackling the acute health and housing needs of local people.”