J4G’s response to the Terms of Reference publication

Justice4Grenfell Campaign notes the publication today of the recommended terms of reference for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and the response of the Prime Minister Theresa May.

Judge Moore Bick had stated previously that the remit of the Inquiry would be narrow and that he felt it would not satisfy the demands of survivors or residents and the local community. We therefore welcome the fact that the inquiry has been broadened to examine such issues as “the response of central and local government in the days immediately following the fire”, however we remain of the opinion that the remit does not go far enough and that Kensington and Chelsea Council are not specifically named, when they are clearly culpable.

We believe that from the start of the process of announcing and setting up the terms of reference of the Inquiry, that the greatest consideration should have been given to the broadest remit possible to ensure all aspects of this avoidable disaster could be examined and lessons learnt to ensure such a disaster never occurs again. The broadening of the Inquiry terms of reference has only been announced following a massive amount of public pressure and this reflects the importance of the community never remaining silent and ensuring that their voices are heard.

J4G make the following comments:

  • It is disappointing that the question of social housing especially social cleansing/gentrification will not be addressed in the Inquiry as this remains a critical issue not just for the community of North Kensington but across the country and goes to the heart of a changing ideological approach to social housing and the pursuit of profit rather than provision of safe, affordable, appropriate and adequate housing
  • The Inquiry must have the ability and power to make recommendations regarding compliance in relation to a range of regulations; should this not be possible under the recommended terms of reference, then they will need to be broadened as the Inquiry unfolds, this will ensure that perfunctory answers are not given and that critical issues as they arise are addressed appropriately
  • Community Advisors should be identified and contacted as soon as possible to be included on the Inquiry panel from the start of the Inquiry.
  • The role of Dame Judith Hackett as chair of the Independent review is untenable given the building standards that are being challenged are those that she endorsed, such a major conflict of interest requires nothing less than her removal from the role
  • Undocumented survivors must be granted a life time amnesty as they are not likely to participate in the Inquiry and their crucial evidence may not be included if they are only given a 12 month amnesty

The Government has the power and opportunity to ensure this Inquiry is meaningful, transparent and robust and that some justice is provided for the victims, survivors and their families, and the local community. In order for this to happen the Government must listen to and involve local community advisors. This will be the litmus test for community trust and confidence in the Inquiry process.

Most Grenfell survivors still without housing

Seven weeks after the apocalyptic fire at Grenfell Tower, the majority of survivors and evacuated residents remain without housing, despite all assurances to the contrary.

The official Grenfell Response newsletter of 1st August 2017 contains stark figures demonstrating the scale of the failure.

“So far, 174 offers of accommodation have been made, 45 offers have been accepted and 12 households have been rehoused.”

These figures are testament to the continuing misery and suffering people are enduring, people who’ve had such horrific and damaging experiences that even with exemplary care and rapid re-housing, it will take many years to recover.

The council’s approach to rehousing need – prioritising survivors from the Tower without taking into account individual circumstances of evacuated residents – whilst understandable, is proving too inflexible, causing some very vulnerable, evacuated residents great distress.

One such case is that of an 89-year-old disabled woman evacuated from Testerton Walk, her home since 1974. Bed ridden as the result of a stroke 3 years ago she had been cared for by her live-in son, Curtis, supplemented with a care package that provided 4 visits a day at home. Since being evacuated she’s been separated from her son, placed in 3 different care homes and hospitalised twice, the second time due to dehydration. This confirmed the family’s concerns about the level of care and attention she was receiving, since being evacuated she’s become very depressed and has lost a considerable amount of weight.

Despite being deemed a priority based on the housing needs points system, Curtis and his mum haven’t received a single rehousing offer. Returning to their previous home in Testerton Walk has been made impossible due to flooding caused by the temporary boiler. Their lives are in limbo, Curtis is deeply concerned about the serious impact this is having on his mother’s health

Another family of four also evacuated from Testerton Walk have been living in a hotel room for the last 7 weeks with no form of communication from the Council or other relevant authorities. The mother told J4G that, whilst she recognises these are extraordinary circumstances,

“It feels as if we’re forgotten, that our issues are not important; we’re made to feel that we should be grateful, but how can we move on with our lives?”

Whilst J4G recognises the complexities of the situation, leaving severely traumatised and disabled people unsupported in inappropriate accommodation that only serves to increase the severity of their trauma is not acceptable. Everything is taking too long, there remains a distinct lack of empathy and care from many of those in authority, rebuilding trust is more or less impossible in such toxic conditions. The Council must do better.

Council – Still No Internal Investigation into Grenfell

Six weeks since the Grenfell disaster and RBK&C Council has yet to start any internal disciplinary proceedings, suspend any officers or begin any internal investigations into allegations of gross misconduct and/or negligence.

This is despite the recent Police announcement that both RBK&C Council and the TMO could face Corporate Manslaughter charges.

The continuing inaction from the Council on this issue suggests an abysmal lack of concern and level of complacency amongst senior managers, mirroring what the community has experienced from the Council Cabinet and the majority political group since the horrendous Grenfell disaster.

Samia Badani, a Social and Public Policy Expert and Chair of Bramley House Residents Association, said:

‘Residents have expressed concerns that some officers are still in post and are making decisions that may impact on their lives. This is despite the fact that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a duty of care was breached. I don’t understand why RBKC have failed to invoke their internal code of discipline, irrespective of the outcome of the criminal investigation. I find their position untenable. What we need now is reassurance, to regain trust in our Local Authority we need them to send a clear message’

J4G concur with Samia’s concerns, it is unacceptable and suggests that individuals at the top of the Council, be they elected officials or senior staff, still don’t understand the enormity of their failings or what it has cost.

Justice 4 Grenfell demands that named individuals are held accountable and face both internal investigation and criminal proceedings.

RBKC’s Disciplinary Policy: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/wamdocs/3employeedisciplinarycode.pdf

Justice 4 Grenfell Campaign Response to Police Announcement re: Corporate Manslaughter

J4G welcomes the Police statement that they have enough evidence to proceed with corporate manslaughter charges, not least because this is evidence of progress being made in the criminal investigation. Trust in the authorities across the entire community has been seriously undermined by events since the fire, to say nothing of everything that happened in the years before the disaster. This announcement will go someway towards the rebuilding of trust; it is to be welcomed for that reason too.

However, corporate entities don’t make and enact policies, people do and for that reason, J4G wants to see individuals named, charged and put on trial in addition to the corporate manslaughter charges. It’s not a case of either one or the other for justice to be done and to be seen to be done, we want both.

Survivors, bereaved families, evacuated residents and the wider community have been demanding arrests be made. J4G hopes that this latest statement from the Police is a precursor to that actually happening as any arrests made will be seen by all those affected as tangible evidence that they are valued members of society and are being listened to.

J4G Calls on the Government to Waive Probate fees

As the enormity of the Grenfell Tower disaster and its impact continues to unfold, the crucial issue of how many people died in the fire remains unresolved and the true scale of the loss unacknowledged by the authorities. Survivors, bereaved families, evacuated residents and the wider Ladbroke Grove community are being re-traumatised everyday as a result.

It’s clear that many relatives of the deceased in the Grenfell disaster need to obtain copies of probate documents and copies of wills. To access these vital documents people are required to pay a fee for each document, even those on income support type benefits now have to pay – a change introduced by the Conservative Government and enacted in October 2013.

J4G is calling on the Ministry of Justice to waive fees for copies of probate documents and wills for ALL Grenfell bereaved families and survivors as a matter of urgency.

“It would be a small gesture by the Government but it would make a big difference to us and the other bereaved families who already have so much to deal with

…said one bereaved family member who wishes to remain anonymous.

Much more needs to be done by the Government to counteract the impact of the casual, thoughtless cruelty that the survivors and bereaved families are subjected to on a daily basis. Removing fees for probate documents and wills for bereaved families would be a small step in the right direction.

Protest at Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall – Wednesday 19th July from 6pm, called by Justice4Grenfell

The Town Hall, Hornton Street, LONDON W8 7NX

The first full council meeting of Kensington and Chelsea is due to take place at 6.30pm on Wednesday 19th July. Please join our peaceful protest outside the Town Hall from 6pm.

We are outraged that the public and press were excluded from observing a meeting of the council cabinet at Kensington Town Hall on Thursday 29th June. The press only gained entry after a court order was issued against the council but the public were still shut out.

The council has assured the community that local residents will be allowed into the meeting. We will be at the council building to make sure this happens.

Kensington and Chelsea council has presided over decades of neglect and mistreatment of ordinary working-class people. The
disastrous fire at Grenfell has resulted in an as yet unconfirmed number of fatalities but we know the official figures currently
being used don’t hold up to public scrutiny.

The lives of countless families have been wrecked but Grenfell survivors and the wider community are still being treated with utter contempt.
The councillors and council officers responsible must go!

They should not be replaced by an unelected task force or commissioners. There must be an immediate local election.

The social cleansing judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick appointed to head the public inquiry is totally unacceptable to the community. The terms of reference are also unacceptably narrow, raising fears of a cover-up.

This out of touch former judge been imposed from on high and chosen with no regard for the thoughts of survivors or other local residents.

We have no confidence in his appointment and demand that survivors and residents must have a say in who leads the inquiry.

Moyra Samuels from Justice 4 Grenfell said:

“We feel the council has fundamentally failed to offer the support survivors and the local community so badly needs. Despite the resignation of former council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, the neglect continues. The community wants to express its frustration and to support those who will be going into the council meeting as part of delegations.”

Press contacts:

Joe Delaney 07985 196 199
Sue Caro 07764 354 877
Yvette Williams MBE 07714 181 555
Moyra Samuels 07988 880 834

Notes for editors

Justice 4 Grenfell demands urgent answers to the following:

  1. What is the realistic figure for the dead and missing?
  2. Why haven’t local empty properties been requisitioned for survivors despite the promises of the council?
  3. Why have no resources been made available for the care of traumatised survivors?
  4. Why have none of the contractors or council executives and elected representatives involved in the decision to install flammable cladding been brought in for questioning or arrested?
  5. Why has no-one from the Tenant Management Organisation been questioned or arrested?
  6. What measures or air quality tests, if any, have been taken since the fire to minimise poisoning by cyanide and other poisonous gases?
  7. Why is the council refusing to deploy its massive reserves in the relief efforts?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/184170918785755/
Website: www.justice4grenfell.org
Email: connect@justice4grenfell.org

Grenfell Fire Survivors Interviewed by Police in an Unsympathetic and Hostile Manner

The Justice 4 Grenfell Campaign has been made aware that Grenfell Tower Survivors are being interviewed by the Police in such a manner that they feel as if they are the criminals responsible for the disaster rather than the victims.

In one case we are aware of, the survivor had her lawyer with her, he was forced to stop the Police Officer carrying out the interview in order to ask him to explain to his client that she wasn’t in any trouble, the purpose of the interview and to adjust his tone.

In another case we are aware of, a male survivor contacted on his mobile by the Police was informed that they wanted to interview him. Having said he didn’t want to talk to the Police, he thought that was the end of the matter. However, two weeks later his wife received a call on her mobile from the Police and was put under pressure to agree to be interviewed. The Officer concerned also questioned her about her husband, asking whether he would be present at the interview. She felt pressurised to agree to the interview and is now anxious about it, neither she nor her husband have any idea how the Police obtained her mobile number and feel that they are being harassed.

The survivors have been through a terrible ordeal, they need to recover, to be treated with empathy, care and respect. The disregard across the board for the emotional and mental welfare of people who have experienced unimaginable horrors is unacceptable and is making matters worse. It is also fuelling the anger and despair many in the community feel. It has to stop.

Grenfell Tower Survivors Evacuated Due to Fire

Grenfell Tower survivors being accommodated at the Bayswater Thistle Hotel have been subjected to another terrifying ordeal, not once but twice in less than a week.

Severely traumatised survivors have not only been accommodated on the 6th floor of this hotel but have also had to go through the trauma of an emergency evacuation due to fire, once on Saturday 8th July and then again on Wednesday 12th July at 8pm. One survivor with 2 small children was particularly badly affected by having to relive her horrifying Grenfell Tower experience.

J4G Campaign call upon the relevant authorities to remove survivors from this hotel immediately and provide them with an alternative that takes account of the trauma they have suffered, people need to recover, not to have their suffering increased.

Response to Metropolitan Police Statement issued on 10th July

J4G shares the concerns of survivors, bereaved families and the wider community regarding the latest statement from the Met Police giving numbers of fatalities, survivors and “missing” as a result of the Grenfell fire. The number of fatalities & missing are generally felt to be too low and not consistent with previously announced figures. Conversely, the number of survivors is considered by many to be too high.

“That night, 14 residents were not in the building, leaving at least 80 people dead or missing, the Met said.”

These figures do not tally with the 87 fatalities already announced by the authorities, figures that were already felt to be too low by many in the community.

The Police estimate of 350 people living in the Tower presents an average of less than 3 people living in each apartment. Survivors and residents from the local area do not accept this estimate, believing it to be way too low. It also fails to take account of the fact that it was Ramadan and therefore there would be many visitors in the Tower, breaking their fast with family and friends.

The Police estimate of 55 people missing is also being challenged by the community, who believe it to be an underestimate and not consistent with the facts. The Metro on 15th June reported that:

“Police revealed today that they have received around 400 calls reporting people missing following the Grenfell Tower fire.”

In addition, there were more than 600 calls made from the Tower on the night of the fire just to the emergency services, plus many more calls made by terrified residents to family and loved ones. The volume of calls alone suggests that many more than 350 people were in the Tower on the 14th June.

“…more than 600 emergency calls made that night ..”

The Met Police statement says that ‘there were about 255 survivors” – many in the local community are asking where are all these survivors and who are they?

It is unfortunate in the extreme that a statement issued in an attempt at transparency has only served to deepen the sense of mistrust in the authorities and heightened the widely held belief that a cover-up is underway.