19/09/2018 19:36 BST | Updated 20/09/2018 09:44 BST

Grenfell Area Residents Issued With 'Inhumane' Ultimatum To Return Or Lose Their Tenancy

Kensington and Chelsea council condemned for treatment of displaced households.

PA Wire/PA Images
File image

Council house residents who lived in the shadow of the Grenfell blaze have been warned to move back to their former homes or lose their tenancy.

Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council has issued the ultimatum to people living in five blocks that were evacuated on the night of the tragedy.

Residents who lived in Barandon Walk, Hurstway Walk, Testerton Walk, Bramley House and Treadgold House will receive letters about returning to their former homes by September 30.

If they refuse, the displaced households will have their tenancies terminated, according to the letter seen by HuffPost UK. They will have to remain in temporary accommodation until a permanent home can be found against a backdrop of long waiting lists in the borough.

One campaigner told HuffPost UK the proposition was “inhumane, lacking compassion and bullying” given the inferno’s huge impact on people’s mental health. 

Some 83 affected households are currently in temporary accommodation and, of those, 14 have said they wish to return to their former homes. A further 69 have not yet decided.

The letter also informs residents that higher rents will be applicable from October 22 should they decide not to return to their former homes. Tenants may be eligible for housing benefit to cover some or all of the higher cost.

As it stands, evacuated council tenants pay the same rent as before the fire, instead of the higher cost of temporary accommodation.

The letter states: “If you do not feel able to return home, you will have to have to end your Council tenancy.

“You will continue to live in a suitable temporary home until you are rehoused to a new home either with the Council or with a housing association (the choice will be yours).”

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
File image

Moyra Samuels, spokesperson for Justice4Grenfell, told HuffPost UK that the move might be linked to a government target to move residents out of temporary accommodation by the end of summer.

“It shows no consideration and it shows that the council is prepared to go back to its behaviour, prior to the fire, where it didn’t listen to residents,” she said.

“We addressed this at the scrutiny committee meeting (in July) and quite a number of the residents were there. 

“The council had admitted previously that there were a range of people who had experienced trauma and were receiving mental health support.

“Now, clearly that includes the people living directly under the tower. If anyone’s been impacted, in terms of the residents of the local community, it would be them. 

“So, to then put additional pressure on them - because some people feel they’re just not psychologically in a space to come back - is just inhumane. It’s lacking compassion. It’s bullying and it, again, reflects the way that this council treats the residents of North Kensington, in particular.” 

The Grenfell Tower fire led to more than 11,000 people requiring medical treatment for mental health problems.

It transformed the Central and North West London NHS Trust into “the largest trauma service in the UK”, according to the trust’s chief psychologist Dr John Green.

Doctors have seen more than 1,300 people either for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) screening or Grenfell-related physical health concerns since flames engulfed the 24-storey tower.

Local Labour councillor Judith Blakeman confirmed to HuffPost UK that she is actively working on proposals to address the situation. 

A council spokesperson said: “This is a fair policy formulated after a borough-wide, in-depth consultation.

“It takes into account the needs of all residents including those who have remained on the Lancaster West estate as well as those on the housing list who are in real need of a home of their own.

“No-one will be excluded – anyone with a housing need will be considered and supported to find suitable accommodation.”