Grenfell Inquiry hears government ministers overlooked trauma counselling for residents and bereaved

The Grenfell tower fire in North Kensington killed 72 people

The Grenfell Inquiry has heard how government records show ministers were not initially concerned with trauma suffered by Grenfell survivors and the bereaved.

Documents on the day of the fire show that ministers looked at trauma counselling for emergency services but not for residents, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard on Thursday.

The inquiry heard from Katharine Hammond a senior director at the cabinet office in charge of disasters.

She told the inquiry that she inferred from the minutes of the conversations between ministers at the time that there was a focus on "holistic rest centre and reception" for families rather than "specific trauma counselling".

  • Watch Katharine Hammond address the Grenfell Inquiry

It follows news on Wednesday that the government plans to keep the controversial “stay put” policy instead of adopting an inquiry recommendation.

Bereaved relatives said they are “enraged” by the decision.

Grenfell United criticised new Home Office papers that outline its reasons for retaining the policy – meaning that residents of most buildings should wait for rescue services rather than leaving in the event of a fire.

This goes against a recommendation from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry – published in October 2019 – which advises the government to place a legal obligation on building owners to outline Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for residents in the event of a fire.

Grenfell United, which represents people affected by the 2017 tragedy, described the response as “a disgrace” for putting disabled people at risk.

The group said: “We are enraged at the government, whose sole focus continues to be profit and not public safety.

“We’ve fought for years to create a legacy for our 72 loved ones, and to prevent another Grenfell.

“But five years on, the Government has reverted back to the same policy in place before Grenfell.

“This policy resulted in 41% of those living with disabilities dying at Grenfell. It left them with no personal evacuation plan and no means of escape.

“They didn’t stand a chance. This report is a disgrace. Disabled people have the right to leave their homes safely.

“The government must implement the recommendation from the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Inquiry and ensure personal evacuation plans for disabled residents.”

Messages left on a wall for the 72 people who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower block

In a consultation document published on Wednesday, the Home Office said it believed the cost of adopting the PEEPs policy would not be “proportionate” and that it would not be “practical” or “safe” to implement.

The department said the “stay put” policy is in place for buildings which are “designed to give appropriate protection” from fire so it is “generally safer” for residents to wait for emergency services to rescue them.

It said this knowledge, combined with safety reforms in the Building Safety Bill means “it would not be proportionate to mandate” the inquiry’s recommendation.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) urged the government to prioritise Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) as a “key recommendation” from the inquiry.

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