The Grenfell Tower tragedy highlighted an underlying issue that individuals within high rise buildings were not sufficiently involved in policy development. Residents did not have the opportunity to communicate their experiences, priorities and perspectives.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) asked Dame Judith Hackitt to carry out an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. The final report was published on 17 May 2018. It concluded that the regulatory system was not fit for purpose for a number of reasons including residents often finding it very difficult to engage with those responsible for the safety of their homes and hold them to account when things go wrong.
The Government developed its response to this report in partnership with industry and residents and it contracted Involve to establish a Residents' Reference Panel to play an important role in developing the proposals to strengthen residents' voice within the system. The aim of was to ensure that policy was grounded in the experience of those who live in High Rise Residential Buildings.
How the panel worked
The Panel was designed to act as a sounding board for policy development. It complemented other existing engagement work with tenants and residents that MHCLG runs.
The panel members were chosen through purposive sampling by NatCen. Panel members varied in terms of their experience of high rise living (for example, what floor they live on and the type of tenure they hold) and demographic criteria such as age, gender and ethnicity.
MHCLG officials from across the Building Safety team also attended all meetings to discuss their work and policy areas directly with residents.
The Panel met over the period of a year on four occasions during that time. The first meeting was held in October 2018. It looked at Panel Members' views on building safety in general. In particular panel members had the opportunity to air all their views on the area of building safety in general at the start of the process. Panel Members then fed into a number of policy areas in the early stages of development. These included access to building safety information; resident engagement and effective complaints handling and what residents felt was needed for escalating and resolving complaints.
MHCLG took this initial feedback away and developed two of the policy areas which they brought back to the second meeting held in January 2019 where they explained what had changed as a result of panel members' feedback. They also brought along two new areas about roles and responsibilities within the new system.
At the third meeting in April 2019 residents were asked to feed into the design and accessibility of a public consultation on building safety. The MHCLG team created a quick-read version of the consultation partly as a result of this feedback to help make the consultation document more accessible.
The final meeting was held in July 2019 where panel members developed a collective response to the ‘Building a safer future – proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system’ consultation published in June 2019.
Download the panel's collective response to the building safety consultation below. Please get in touch if you require this in a different format.
What we did
Involve's role in the project was to design and run the panel meetings. These took the form of deliberative workshops, which enables participants to discuss in depth the issues and options available for decision-makers. The aim is to bring people together to absorb and discuss new information and work towards an overall conclusion at the end of the meeting. It encourages people to take into account the values that inform people’s opinions.
A key part of this approach is to share the outcomes and impact of the feedback provided by participants. The outcome of each meeting was shared with all of the Panel participants and MHCLG. Participants also received regular feedback from MHCLG on the positive impact their contributions made to the MHCLG work programme.
In April 2020, MHCLG published the Government's response to the building safety consultation, which included references to the work of the panel. This document has been shared with panellists to keep them updated on the progress of any changes they had pushed for through their involvement in this work.
Panel Members responded with the following feedback when asked what their favourite part of this project was:
The freedom to talk and be listened to
Talking about all the issues and feeling like we are making a difference and contributing. Also really interesting to meet and discuss with all those different people
Very interesting, will miss these sessions
The whole atmosphere of discussions and reaching some conclusions, albeit a little wild! This is the way to approach difficult issues!
I really like that everyone is given a voice, not just the dominant ones
We had a real and valued input and effect
Feels like I've been contributing back to society by being part of this
It was an excellent event to participate in, to have people share their thoughts and to be heard for something that matters and can really start a change
A rewarding and positive experience
This is a golden opportunity to have a real input into making a change