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Responding to Grenfell

The unbearable horror of Grenfell united all but the most callous in sympathy and distress.  However it’s also something of a Rorschach test, in that the precise nature and focus of individual responses have tended to reflect people’s prejudices and politics.  The context for the fire is complex and contested, taking in technical issues concerning building regulations and materials, as well as much broader debates about inequality. Although accusations of politicising the tragedy may be well founded, sometimes they too seem overly ‘political’.

Many have given practical help to the residents, either in money or time.  Here are just three initiatives (there are many more) which seem particularly welcome, in that they are offering free specialist advice to people dealing with serious practical problems (for example missing documents) as well as with the trauma of the fire.

The first is the Grenfell Rights Project; this brings together caseworkers and welfare rights advisers to help residents:

What help we can give: We can help anyone who needs it, on any issue you need help with, from problems with temporary housing, linking older people and people with disabilities with care at home, helping to replace documents, helping to access compensation, dealing with government and council departments, utilities companies and more.

Contact us: If you need help or know someone who does, please ask them to contact us at [email protected]

Venues: We are working on setting up advice services in the community over the next days and weeks. In the meantime, our caseworkers are very happy to visit you where you are.

The second is a law firm offering free housing advice

The third is the North Kensington Law Centre, an established charity based near the tower, which is now focusing its efforts on helping those affected by the disaster.

At this point, the Law Centre can help them understand their situation and their rights and help them plan ahead. It can then help them access support they are entitled to, like getting a new home, benefits support and social care if they are sick, disabled or injured.

The Law Centre will also be working with residents to address the bigger access to justice issues arising from the disaster.

The legal assistance is confidential and independent – Law Centres work for their clients and community, not the council. The Law Centre can also connect people to other support services (legal and non-legal) in a coordinated way.

It’s a measure of the complexity, as well as the horror, of this incident that there is considerable disagreement as to how best to secure answers – and justice.  Theresa May has proposed a public enquiry; some believe an inquest would be preferable.