Grenfell families urge government to ‘listen to their voices’

The release of a charity report provides insight into the experiences of bereaved families.

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A new report released today (8th May) by charity INQUEST, highlights the ‘shared frustrations’ experienced by bereaved families following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The evidence-based report includes testimonies from families who have come together to reflect on their experiences post the disaster.

Family reflections on Grenfell: No voice left unheard is said to reflect on the “chaos” and “lack of organisation” in the aftermath of the fire and are critical of the government response at both a local and national level.

They also voice concerns with the Inquiry process including the “uncertain time frames, unsuitable venue, lack of interim recommendations, disclosure of evidence, frustrations that lawyers cannot question witnesses directly and the lack of candour.”

On 11th May last year, because of a family campaign, the Prime Minister announced a decision-making panel would be appointed for Phase 2 of the Grenfell Public Inquiry.

One year on, the absence of a decision-making panel was also raised by bereaved families as “impeding their trust and confidence” in the process.

The report highlights suggestions for change to establish best practice, not just for this Inquiry but for future disasters.

These include:

  • The need for an independent diverse decision-making Inquiry panel
  • Meaningful consultation on selecting the venue
  • Re-examination of procedures for questioning witnesses to enable family lawyers to directly ask questions
  • Adoption of a duty of candour by public authorities and public entities
  • Seminars to un-pick technical jargon
  • Advance notice of hearings and prompt disclosure of legal papers
  • Support for employers enabling families to take time off work without losing annual leave entitlement
  • The need for an organised coordinated response from authorities e.g. central and local government and emergency services providing a central point of support for families to contact e.g. for information about missing relatives, legal rights, pastoral support etc.
  • Professionals (e.g. keyworkers, FLO’s) dealing with families should receive proper training in the skills required to carry out the role effectively
  • Every family should have a trained, lead key worker, independent of the council, with responsibility to communicate information/developments and ensure families have the resources required following a disaster on this scale

One bereaved member of the group said recounts the loss of his entire family in the fire.

“Their voices can no longer be heard. I must represent them. I owe it to them.

“This report is important because these are our words and our voices. The government have an obligation to listen to us. If they don’t listen to us, then who will they listen to?”, Sadik Kelbeto said.

Deborah Coles, INQUEST Director said: “This is the first-time bereaved families have come together to reflect on what happened and the process so far.

“Rooted in the painful reality of families’ experiences, they have made insightful and practical recommendations. This contrasts with the silence from the Inquiry.

“There were systemic failings before, during and after the disaster and families feel disconnected from a process that has still not delivered a panel, interim recommendations and where their lawyers voices have been sanitised.

She added: “They are in a state of limbo with no clear time frames which exacerbates mental and physical ill health.

“It is high time the Inquiry team and the government listened to these voices and provide an inclusive and truthful Inquiry that delivers structural change and accountability.

“This should be the legacy of Grenfell.”

Survivors group, Grenfell United said that the release of the report is the first-time bereaved families have brought together to document the impact of Grenfell in the “harrowing” days after the fire.

“The report is a compelling piece of work we hope will contribute to much needed and lasting change to how we deal with disasters and disaster management”, they said.

“It is so important the government and Inquiry understand what we went through in our own words.

“We hope the Inquiry team will urgently take on board the ideas put forward by families in this report.

“Families must be at the heart of the Inquiry if we are ever to get the truth for our loved ones.”

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