Grenfell Tower survivors criticise the ‘indifferent and incompetent’ government response

Grenfell Tower
Fréa Lockley

On 14 June 2017, 72 people were killed in the Grenfell Tower fire. Now, nearly two years on, survivors have spoken out to criticise the government’s “indifferent and incompetent” response.

“Institutionalised indifference”

Members of Grenfell United (GU), a Grenfell Tower survivors’ group, has publicly attacked Theresa May and her government in the Times. GU represents about 95% of the survivors and bereaved families. Since the tragedy, it has “tried to influence policy through private meetings with the prime minister and housing ministers”. But after “fighting tooth and nail” for housing reform and increased safety measures, GU chair Natasha Elcock said:

Nothing has really changed. It is unbelievable that almost two years after Grenfell thousands of people are living in… death traps.

The Times reported that Elcock and Edward Daffarn – a founding member of the group – had little confidence in May’s government as it continued to show “institutionalised indifference towards” social-housing communities.

As GU suggested, ministers have continued to treat survivors’ “kindness as weakness”.

“Indifferent and incompetent”

GU was established for survivors “to look after each other” and also to “support the wider community and to campaign for justice and change”. One of the group’s biggest aims is working to ensure that “a tragedy like” Grenfell “never happens again”. Daffarn told the Times:

It has taken us 22 months to understand that if we carry on in a dignified and kind way we may never get the change that we need. It feels like it’s always us having to seek meetings with them. We never get any feedback… The government action can best be summed as indifferent and incompetent.

According to GU, housing minister Kit Malthouse failed to contact the group seven weeks after it tried to arrange a meeting “to propose a new model of housing regulator”.

Ongoing concerns

As The Canary reported, the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire said that, among other things, evidence “strongly supports” the idea that the tower’s cladding played a role in the fire’s spread. Yet hundreds of buildings still have similar cladding, and government funding is not available to replace it. As The Canary also reported, there are similar concerns about the safety of fire doors in both council-owned and private buildings.

The fire left “202 households in need of rehousing”. Nearly two years later, 19 households are still in non-permanent accommodation. Mahad Egal, Jamie Murray and their two children were recently moved from a priority list onto a “general council house waiting list”. They may also be forced to leave temporary accommodation as “the council will no longer pay for it”. Yet after the fire, May pledged to rehome survivors within three weeks.

According to the Times, a government spokesman said:

We will continue to work with Grenfell United and others to ensure that social homes are safe, issues are resolved quickly and residents’ voices are heard.

Featured image via Paula Peters – Twitter

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