Grenfell families urge Government and Inquiry team to listen to their voices

By agency reporter
May 13, 2019

A new report, Family reflections on Grenfell: No voice left unheard released by the charity INQUEST, highlights the shared frustrations and anger experienced by bereaved families following the Grenfell Tower fire. INQUEST organised a family consultation day, the first time families have come together to reflect on their experiences. This evidence-based report is filled with their first-hand testimonies.
 
Family reflections on Grenfell: No voice left unheard provides invaluable insight into the experiences of bereaved families. They 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 their serious 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 11 May 2018, as a result of a strong family campaign, the Prime Minister announced a decision-making panel would be appointed for Phase Two 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.
 
Through their lived experience, families made strong suggestions for change to establish best practice, not just for this Inquiry but for future disasters:

  • 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;
  • There should be 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. Families described this as a Central Support Hub
  • Professionals (e.g. keyworkers, family liaision officers) 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.

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 is in contrast to 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. 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 lasting legacy of Grenfell.”
 
Bereaved Family Member Sadik Kelbeto said: “My whole family was wiped out by the fire. Their voices can no longer be heard. I have to 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?”
 
Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivors group, said: “This is the first time bereaved families have been brought together to document the impact of Grenfell in the harrowing days immediately 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.
 
"It is so important the Government and Inquiry understand what we went through in our own words. We hope in particular 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.”

* Read the report Family reflections on Grenfell: No voice left unheard here

* More information on the work INQUEST is doing on the Grenfell Tower fire can be found here

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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