Comment by: Lynne Johnson
Focus area: Fire safety regulation
Regulator concerned: Care Quality Commission (CQC)
Our group provides social care support to a variety of service users. We have experienced very different approaches by Fire Safety Officers. In our residential homes the rules are, relatively speaking, clear cut and we have few problems, in fact we were pleased when one officer commented at the most recent inspection that they were happy with everything and it was the quickest and easiest inspection they had ever had. The problems mainly arise with Supported Living. Where this involves shared accommodation we have various situations, some Service Users have chosen to live together as a ‘family unit’ either because they are in a relationship with each other or because they have moved together from residential accommodation as a group of friends. Others share accomodation which clearly comes under the HMO Regulations with which of course we fully comply. We have however sometimes had Inspectors quoting the full Fire Regulations to us where there is a ‘single household’ status and insisting that there should be full fire warning systems, fire fighting equipment and signage. We find that we have to enter into an ‘education’ process with these individuals explaining the staus of such households and why we cannot insist on such measures in what is essentially a private domestic home. Surely the training that Fire Officers receive who are involved in inspecting our sector should include guidence on where the line is drawn and where the Fire Safety Order Regulations apply and where not. We are of course very keen to ensure that our staff and service users are as safe as possible but there has to be a balence between duty of care and the right of our service users to live in as ‘normal’ an evironment as possible – after all how many of us have the green ‘fire exit’ notices up in our homes?