More than a third of Essex care homes fail fire safety checks

Over 50 care homes in Essex failed fire safety checks Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ ISTOCKPHOTO

Over 50 care homes in Essex failed fire safety checks Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ ISTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Over a third of Essex care homes audited in the last year failed to meet fire safety checks.

Data from the Home Office showed that of the 843 fire safety inspections carried out in buildings in Essex in 2018-19, 43% came back as unsatisfactory, meaning that the building failed safety checks in at least one aspect.

The figures do not specify which buildings failed their audits for which reasons.

Of the 152 care homes inspected in Essex, 51 homes - more than a third - were deemed unsatisfactory by Essex Fire and Rescue.

Almost half of the hotels (46%) and half of the schools did not pass at a satisfactory standard.

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While half of the 206 licensed properties, including pet shops and sex shops, also failed their audits.

All of the premises that failed their audits were given an informal notice which, while not legally binding, requires them to improve their fire safety, potentially through an agreed action plan.

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Only one building, a licensed premises, received an enforcement notice legally requiring improvements to be made, despite 364 unsatisfactory results.

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue said: "We work very closely with partners, businesses and private property owners to provide them with in-depth advice on fire safety legislation, doing everything we can to help them comply with the necessary standards.

"However, it is very important to understand the reasons that a building or property might receive an unsatisfactory rating. Many of those we visit are in constant use and subject to wear and tear - meaning easily addressable issues like fire doors being held open or items blocking escape routes can easily be rectified.

"It is very much the responsibility of the property owners to ensure the recommendations made following Fire Safety Audits are acted upon. Where necessary - in particularly serious breaches of legislation or when those recommendations are ignored - we will take enforcement action."

A spokesman for Age UK Essex: "We're saddened to hear of such poor safety in Essex care homes. Home should be the place where we feel safest, the place we make our memories, and the place where we can grow old.

"Inspection, regulation and the protection of service user rights are essential to protect vulnerable residents. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) are the regulatory body responsible for the monitoring, inspecting and rating of residential care services. The CQC have reported the challenges in maintaining high-quality care in the face of increasing demand, financial pressures and workforce shortages. Their 2018 annual report shows that 20 per cent of residential homes were rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, across the country. Providing and maintaining high-quality care is not just due to demand, funding and staffing factors but also depends on local commissioning practices and residents' funding arrangements as well as strong organisational leadership, governance and a positive working culture.

"A good care home enables residents to have a good quality of life, including being able to go out and to be as mentally and physically active as possible, with appropriate support. Age UK Essex believes this should be available to all."

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