Living through the building safety crisis
Impacts on the mental wellbeing of leaseholders
This report discusses the mental wellbeing impacts of the building safety crisis – or ‘cladding scandal’ – on leaseholders, drawing on in-depth interviews. It outlines the spectrum of wellbeing harms that were experienced by those living through the crisis and the different drivers of harms.
The building safety crisis refers to problems identified in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, particularly relating to flammable cladding and insulation, missing or inadequate fire breaks, compartmentation and fire doors, and flammable materials on balconies. This has been an area of significant policy evolution, with changing advice and guidance, however the current outcome is that many leaseholders living in affected buildings are unable to sell their homes until external wall systems can be assessed, risks identified, and remediation works carried out. Remedying these building safety problems comes at a significant cost. Whilst Government funding exists for some building types, eligibility is limited, many buildings have no recourse to funding, and not all types of work are covered by the fund.
Key findings include:
- Negative impacts on mental wellbeing ranged from constantly worrying and being unable to concentrate on other things, to anxiety, depression, and suicidal feelings. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified these harms because individuals were forced to spend more time in a home that was damaging to their health.
- Fear of a dangerous fire breaking out was a very significant driver of negative mental health outcomes for some individuals. However, for most this was eclipsed by the financial impact, which was seen as a more likely and immediate danger.
- The financial impact of receiving bills for remediation works was a significant source of stress. In many cases this stress co-existed alongside a gradual increase in day-to-day costs.
- All participants reflected on the impact of the building safety crisis on their ability to control their own lives, plan for the future, and make choices towards securing that future. This was particularly associated with life stage transitions such as family planning, moving to a larger home, retirement, and moving for work, or to facilitate caring relationships.
- The financial pressures and autonomy harms that households were living with could put significant strain on relationships within and outside the home.
- For many leaseholders, the building safety crisis challenged their self-perception, foundational components of their identity, and their view of wider society and their place and value within it.
- Many participants were frustrated with policy developments and felt that it was now necessary for Government to lead a process to identify, assess, and remediate buildings systematically, based on a prioritisation of risks. This would require significant Government funding, but there was considerable desire to see relevant organisations held accountable.
Author: Dr Jenny Preece
Date: November 18, 2021 5:00 pm
Author(s): Jenny Preece
Categorised in: Cross-cutting« Back to publications