Grenfell survivors’ trauma worsened by rehousing effort – report

Eighty-two households from the Tower and Grenfell Walk are currently living in permanent homes and 52 are in temporary accommodation (David Mirzoeff/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Grenfell Tower survivors were let down and their trauma worsened by the efforts of the local authority to rehouse them, a report claims.

North Kensington Law Centre, which has provided legal advice to around 250 households from Grenfell Tower and the surrounding area, said the performance of the local council had “fallen way short”.

This resulted in “unacceptable delays” which added to the community’s suffering, and may continue to do so if the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) does not take action.

Currently, 82 households from the Tower and Grenfell Walk are living in permanent homes and 52 are in temporary accommodation, the local authority said.

That leaves 69 households in hotels, just days before the one-year anniversary of the blaze.

Of these, the council said just five households were yet to accept an offer of accommodation, while 90% of properties were ready to move into.

The Government and the local council previously set a deadline of the anniversary to have all former residents in new homes.

The report said: “The council’s interaction with residents in the period after the fire had the capacity to alleviate some of the trauma of survivors, but instead too often only exacerbated it.

“In the last 12 months, RBKC has failed to fully grasp this reality and has let down survivors as a result.”

The report cited lack of trust as a “significant barrier” to the rehousing process, adding that “all too often the council’s preventable mistakes have worsened an already dismal situation”.

Problems with the suitability of existing available housing, inadequate assessments of people’s housing needs, and delays in moving into permanent homes because of repairs and safety works were also flagged by the centre.

Assessments of the types of properties needed were done too often with a “business-as-usual” attitude, the report said, adding that too many unsuitable offers had been made.

Alex Diner, a policy officer at the centre, said: “Our concern all along is that the council bought a load of properties, did so very, very quickly, and when they were doing it they didn’t perhaps pay enough attention to the very complex needs that these people have… ’how close is it to the kids’ school, how close is it to my work, how close is it to the hospital or the place that I get the care that I need from’, disability issues – not wanting to be above a certain number of floors for obvious reasons.

“So our concern is the residual pool of housing isn’t matching their needs, so unless someone gets their chequebook out, and buys more suitable properties, we are concerned the people who haven’t yet accepted won’t find any suitable housing.”

Clients were also finding it “very, very frustrating” to be facing delays to moving into permanent accommodation due to repairs, and fire safety checks, and felt forgotten, he said.

RBKC leader Elizabeth Campbell said: “It has been a hugely complex challenge, but 90% of families have accepted an offer of a permanent home, and 90% of these homes are ready to move into.

“I have seen and heard the personal stories bravely told in the first two weeks of the public inquiry, every day. The families involved are not statistics that need to be moved around a balance sheet.

“So, we will no longer set deadlines. They are not required. What is required is understanding, support, and above all a willingness to do everything we can to help.”