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Grenfell Tower Fire: Authorities Deny Survivors 'Threatened With Being Declared Intentionally Homeless'

'Spreadsheet decision-making at its most inhuman'.

20/06/2017 13:51 | Updated 4 days ago

Authorities have denied allegations that Grenfell Tower fire victims, who don’t want to be re-housed in other high rises or far out of London, face being deemed “intentionally homeless”.

The allegation was made by a local councillor in an email to MP David Lammy, which HuffPost UK has seen.

It suggests survivors of the blaze are being offered places as far away as Preston and those who refuse are threatened with being put at the bottom of the housing list because “they are making themselves voluntarily homeless”.

The councillor called it “spreadsheet decision-making at its most inhuman”.

Concern is growing where those made homeless by the fire will ultimately be able to live but a spokesman for the Grenfell Action Response Team called the email “simply not true”.

As the confirmed death toll rises to 79, the email also said part of the reason it was so hard to confirm the numbers who had died was residents had been subletting their flats.

The councillor called this “a direct function of housing crisis,” adding: “This is why the death toll is unknown. Nobody even knows their names.”

PA Wire/PA Images
Beds are laid in the Westway Sports Centre shortly after the fire for those made homeless

Authorities have insisted as many people as possible will be rehoused in the Kensington and Chelsea borough but this is likely to prove difficult and there are fears many could be forced to live much further away.

A lawyer claimed on Monday that people were facing being re-housed as far away as Preston. 

“What we mustn’t see is these people being sent away to, as I’m hearing, Preston and further afield,” Russell Conway told LBC radio.

Lammy, who has repeatedly expressed outrage about the failure to prevent the fire and the treatment of people after it, tweeted to call allegation in the email “absolutely despicable”.

He tweeted: “Intentionally homeless = the council does not have a duty to rehouse you. How can your home being burned down = intentionally homeless.”

The Grenfell Fire Emergency Response Team, set up to co-ordinate the response to the disaster, said: “No one is being forced to move out of London, or being threatened with being made homeless.”

They said they were “working to find the right accommodation for those affected residents, either in Kensington and Chelsea or neighbouring boroughs”.

The team has previously denied anyone is being re-housed in a high rise, saying on Monday that people were “being temporarily housed in hotel accommodation in or close to borough”.

It has slao said: “We have endeavoured to keep accommodation as local as possible, and we completely accept residents’ wishes to remain close to the community.”

On Monday evening, a Downing Street spokesman said: ” The Prime Minister received reassurances that the commitment to re-home people within the same or neighbouring borough would be met within the three week deadline and that reports of people being offered homes hundreds of miles away were false.”

Social housing lawyer Jayesh Kunwardia said the Royal Borough of Kensington And Chelsea (RBKC) should revoke its housing policy for the Grenfell Tower survivors and commit to finding each of them suitable accommodation.

He said the council’s existing policy left him concerned that even people who refused accommodation for personal reasons, such as they were staying with family instead, could be designated “intentionally homeless”.

Kunwardia, a partner at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “I’ve already spoken to a number of former Grenfell Tower residents who have refused the offer of temporary accommodation outside of the borough and have opted to stay with family or friends instead...

“I’m worried that former Grenfell Tower residents, who have very good reasons for refusing an offer of accommodation, because of potential difficulties with work, schooling, medical appointments or their social network, may be penalised as a result.

“It seems to me that there is a lack of transparency by RBKC on the legal rights available to the victims of this tragic disaster.”

He added: “No resident should be at risk of losing their right to be housed if they refuse accommodation that is unsuitable.”

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