The six months since the Grenfell Tower atrocity will be marked on Thursday by a silent walk in the locality and a commemoration service in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Kensington and Chelsea council has yet to rehouse four fifths of the households who escaped the inferno, with 103 families still in emergency hotel accommodation. Uncertainty, distress and lack of trust characterise the long drawn out rehousing process. The council expects families to bid against neighbours in a competition for flats. People worry, with good reason, that if they accept temporary housing they’ll lose any chance of securing local permanent housing any time soon.
Bereaved relatives and survivors are still fighting the government for a central part in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which currently focuses on the immediate cause of the fire while it excludes social housing policy and the wider political context from its remit. They don’t want lies, cover ups or platitudes from a justice system that many of them see as protecting the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the rights of ordinary people like them. With the help of Michael Mansfield QC, who represented Hillsborough families, they intend to keep on fighting until they get justice.
Meanwhile the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the UK’s national human rights watchdog, is launching its own inquiry to see whether the government and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea failed in their duties to protect life and provide safe housing. The Conservatives and Theresa May, in particular, have tried several times to dismantle the Human Rights Act and the protections it provides us all – but haven’t yet succeeded. The EHRC, which will be reporting in April, intends to address the human rights and equalities perspectives that it feels the government’s inquiry neglects – an inquiry that they too have been excluded from.