Sheffield medical graduate William Martin started at Sheffield’s Medical School aged 27 after several years of earning. Shortly after Grenfell, it was discovered that his building – along with hundreds of others – had the same type of Grenfell cladding on it. Initially he was told he and the residents would have to each pay around £20K to remove this material from his building, this obviously causing him a massive amount of angst and fear for his safety. This prompted William along with two others, to launch the UK Cladding Action Group, with an aim of uniting leaseholders like them across the country. The Group now represents over 270 blocks in the UK and approx 10,000 leaseholders. Throughout medical school William has spent much of his free time meeting with MPs and ministers in Parliament, writing press releases, speaking to the media and lobbying the right people for change to ensure that innocent leaseholders like him do not have to pay for something they are not responsible for.
The situation is causing a mental health crisis – until the cladding is off he can’t sell or remortgage, and people can’t start families. As we approach the third anniversary of Grenfell, William has taken it upon himself to conduct a mental health survey the results of which he has spent much of the lockdown compiling into a report. Of the 550 respondents who completed the survey – 23% saying they had had suicidal feelings or a desire to self harm. 27% said they had received a diagnosis as a result of the situation and 94% said they suffered from constant anxiety and worry.
Summary of key findings:
- 9/10 said their mental health had deteriorated as a direct result of the cladding situation
- 23% reported having suicidal feelings or a desire to self-harm
- 7/10 reported having difficulty sleeping
- 35% said an existing condition had been made worse by the situation.
- Almost 1 in 3 said they had put starting a family on hold.
William has also made a video which got 20K views on Twitter last month and have since launched a mental health trailer.
Last year William compiled a similar report which was used in parliament by MPs and just a few weeks later fund of £200 million was released which was largely attributed by the Ministry of Housing to the pressure leaseholder groups like UKCAG had put on the government. They have now gained credibility and regularly converse with the Greater London Authority and the Fire Brigades Union. William also recently gave evidence at a select committee hearing about the aftermath of Grenfell and in February met with Robert Jenrick for housing at a roundtable meeting at The Home Office; and in March Rishi Sunak announced further funding.
But despite this, thousands of buildings are still unsafe and covered in cladding, including William’s – And until it’s removed the anguish he faces continues.
William has spent lockdown working on this project – and has so far been covered by:
- ITV Calendar: https://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2020-06-11/mental-health-crisis-warning-over-homes-covered-in-possible-dangerous-cladding/
- ITV London: https://twitter.com/RagsMartel/status/1271171733458911234
- ITV Meridian: https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2020-06-11/living-in-fear-residents-say-unsafe-cladding-is-affecting-their-mental-health/
- ITV Granada: https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2020-06-11/survey-shows-suicidal-feelings-amongst-those-living-in-home-with-cladding/
- R4 You & Yours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBtbjjYFRWQ
- BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53015868
- Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/uk-news/grenfell-tower-cladding-fire-suicide-insomnia-mental-health-survey-a9561156.html
- Evening Standard: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/keir-starmer-unforgivable-grenfell-cladding-a4466681.html
- The Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/grenfell-cladding-scandal-manchester-residents-clash-with-government-over-who-pays-for-remediation-works-9zwzkcn68
- Huffington Post: https://tinyurl.com/yd6l8ddm