Grenfell: Nearly 7 Years On, We Are No Nearer Justice

Wed,31 January 2024
News Equality & Rights Housing
Last Monday to Friday was Grenfell Testimony Week. It was a chance for survivors and bereaved families to speak out about the night of the fire, the loved ones that died, the continuing impact on their lives and the shameful lack of action. The public bodies and businesses, that through their behaviours and actions contributed to the tragedy, were present to listen but not to respond, except for the manufacturer of the cladding, Arconic, that shamefully failed to attend. Our Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi went along and writes about the deep and urgent need for justice for Grenfell survivors and those who died.

I was privileged to listen to some of the testimonies given on Friday morning and was deeply moved by what I heard. However, I was also deeply angered by the lack of action to ensure that such loss of life, never happens again. 

On 14 June 2017, a fire spread through Grenfell Tower, that killed 72 people. The fire should never have happened and residents should never have died as a result. The majority of those who died were of minority ethnic origin, many were Disabled people and children. The Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry laid bare the reasons for the fire and loss of life and made a number of recommendations to prevent such a disaster happening in the future. Nearly seven years on, we are no nearer justice.  

People giving testimony spoke about their loved ones including friends, fiancés, siblings, parents and relatives. They spoke about the warmth, kindness, passions, generosity, spirit and  dreams of those who died. They spoke about people with mobility impairments not being able to get down the stairs and those who stayed with them. They spoke about the panic, fear, isolation and courage, with which their loved ones faced truly horrific deaths. They spoke about the bad instructions of the London Fire Brigade, wrongly insisting that people “stay put” when they could have escaped. They spoke about the failure of Kensington and Chelsea Council to provide immediate help and ongoing support. They spoke about how their lives had been destroyed by the deaths of their loved ones. Their words were listened to in absolute silence and respect. 

Survivors and bereaved families are absolutely owed our silence and respect but they are entitled to so much more. They are entitled to: the Government implementing the Inquiry’s recommendations through enacting tougher laws; fire services updating policies and communications; landlords putting Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans in place for Disabled residents; developers and builders creating safer homes; social and private landlords listening to their residents; and health and care services providing ongoing support to victims of disasters. 

Everyone attending Grenfell Testimony Week should have left thinking about what action they were going to take next. Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling UP, Housing and Communities), Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) and Andy Rowe (Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade) are some of those who attended and who need to act. I left thinking about what more Disability Rights UK could do. 

We have worked with Claddag (Disabled Leaseholders), Grenfell support groups, Disabled people’s organisations, Disabled activists and fire and building safety experts, to campaign for the UK Government to implement the 2019 Public Inquiry recommendation that Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) be put in place for Disabled residents but so far with no success.  

Grenfell Testimony Week will renew our commitment to making sure that PEEPs are made a legal requirement. Disabled residents who need support, should not have to live in fear of what will happen in the event of fire. We should know how we can leave a building safely.  

We will not forget the people who died in Grenfell Tower or those who have been left behind.