Ed Miliband is joining with a survivor of the Grenfell tragedy to carry out an investigation into social housing.
The former Labour leader will serve on a commission investigating the sector alongside Edward Daffarn – part of the residents’ group which warned of a lack of fire safety before a blaze ripped through the West London tower block killing 70 people dead and causing a still-birth.
The project, launched by housing charity Shelter, has received the backing of Housing Secretary Sajid Javid, who said it was vital party politics is put to one side to tackle concerns around the issue.
Highlighting the need for the commission, Shelter and YouGov have revealed new research showing almost half (48%) of families in social housing who reported issues around poor or unsafe conditions felt ignored or were refused help.
These included concerns around fire safety, gas leaks, electrical hazards, mould and pest problems – some of which were raised by residents in Grenfell tower in the months leading up to the fire.
Announcing the commission, Miliband said: “We have failed for too many years to deliver the social housing this country needs in the way people need it.
“This commission is a huge opportunity to build a great consensus for a transformation of housing provision and to respond to the rightful demand for change which followed the Grenfell tower tragedy.”
Daffarn, now part of the survivors’ group Grenfell United, added: “Everyone who lived in Grenfell Tower knows just how devastating the consequences are when the wellbeing of social housing tenants and leaseholders are disregarded – more than 70 members of our community needlessly lost their lives in a wholly avoidable tragedy.
“If we are ever to achieve any kind of justice and recompense for what happened it will come through genuine social change and by ensuring that people living in social housing will never again be treated like second class citizens or experience such neglect and institutional indifference at the hands of housing providers.”
The commission will carry out a series of roadshows across the country, while a public consultation will take place online to gather experiences and views of those in and out of the social housing sector.
A major piece of research with social housing tenants will also be carried out, and an independent report carrying recommendations will be presented to the Prime Minister and to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn before the end of the year.
Reverend Mike Long, who is chairing the commission, said: “I hope this commission will hold a mirror up to society.
“We need to take a long hard look at why communities such as Grenfell have felt ignored, forgotten and too often like second-class citizens.
“The experiences of residents here in Grenfell are sadly common in many other parts of the country, too.”
The YouGov survey revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of families in social housing said they feel looked down on because of where they live, compared with only 8% of families who are private renters or homeowners.
The Government is currently conducting its own investigation into the social housing, with Housing Secretary Sajid Javid promising a “wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector” in a speech last September.
Welcoming the new commission, Javid said: “I look forward to working with the commission on this important issue.
“It’s key that we work together with tenants, the sector and charities such as Shelter, putting party politics aside so that we can get on and address the long-term issues of social housing.”