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NUS calls on government to ensure fire safety of student halls

Thursday 29 June 2017

Last week the BBC revealed that a block of student flats managed by Fresh Student Living in Newcastle has the same cladding as that of Grenfell Tower. Subsequently it has come to light that blocks in Nottingham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Edinburgh also have this same material thought to be a contributing factor to the severity of the fire.

In response to concerns raised by students, NUS Vice President (Welfare) Shelly Asquith has written to Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) to urge the government to take action to ensure the safety of students. We are calling on the government to ensure that all high-rise student blocks are included in the current review of fire safety, and urge them to properly fund local services to ensure robust ongoing fire safety checks. A copy of this letter has been published on our website.

Shelly Asquith, NUS Vice President (Welfare) said:

“Following the tragic disaster at Grenfell Tower, students have contacted us concerned about the safety of their halls of residence. We are demanding the Government takes immediate action to ensure all halls are included in fire safety checks. This needs to happen urgently to reassure students due to enrol in September. We also call on the Government to reverse cuts to the fire service which so many of our members rely on."

In addition, we have been working with Unipol and others to urge all members of  the Accommodation Codes, which regulate the safety and management of student halls, to ensure they are providing safe accommodation. All members of these codes have received an offer from the Department of Communities and Local Government to have their building materials tested. NUS have co-signed a letter to the members of the ANUK/Unipol code, which you can also find on our website. In this letter we call on student housing providers to take up the offer of testing, and we ask them to reassess and provide assurances of their fire safety procedures. We have encouraged them to communicate clearly and effectively with tenants, students’ unions and the relevant institutions.

This week NUS has also informed students’ unions that there are a number of actions they can take to help ensure the safety of student accommodation at a local level. In the first instance, NUS encourages students' unions to contact the institutions estates department and/or the management of the private provider to ask whether testing is in process and to what timescale, and what else they are doing to re-assess fire risk in high-rise blocks. Students’ unions should focus on any halls in which students are resident over the summer.

Students with specific concerns should speak to their students' union advice centre or students' union representative.

ENDS

For further comment please contact NUS Press office pressoffice@nus.org.uk 07866 695 010 

The National Union of Students is a voluntary membership organisation which makes a real difference to the lives of students and its member students' unions.

We are a confederation of 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Through our member students' unions, we represent the interests of more than seven million students. We promote, defend and extend the rights of students and develop and champion strong students’ unions.