Not all survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire will be permanently rehoused by the time of the one year anniversary in June, the government has admitted.
Commenting on the second Grenfell recovery taskforce report, published on Thursday, secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid conceded that progress in rehousing survivors had been “far to slow”.
June 14 will mark one year since the devastating blaze ripped through the 24-storey tower in North Kensington, killing 71 people.
Javid said there are still 82 households in emergency accommodation, including 15 in serviced apartments, with 25 families and 39 children among them.
The Tory minister told MPs: “It was always going to be a challenge to respond to an unprecedented tragedy on this scale and to secure new accommodation in one of the country’s most expensive locations, but progress has not been made as quickly as it should have done.
“This is totally unacceptable. The suffering that these families have already endured is unimaginable, living for this long in hotels can only make the process of grieving and recovery even harder.
“As the taskforce has said, it is unlikely that all households will be permanently rehoused by the one year anniversary of the fire.”
In all, since the Grenfell Tower task force’s last report five months ago, 188 households have accepted an offer of accommodation, 128 households have moved into new accommodation, 62 into permanent homes.
Javid said: “It was always going to be a challenge to respond to an unprecedented tragedy on this scale and to secure new accommodation in one of the country’s most expensive locations, but progress has not been made as quickly as it should of done.”
He said it was inevitable that the people of North Kensington would feel let down by the news, and added that the Kensington and Chelsea Council had more than 300 properties available for those who have lost their homes.
Labour MP Tony Lloyd said it was “shameful” that nine months on so many survivors are still without a permanent home.
“At the very beginning of this process, had the secretary of state and the prime minister come to the house and told us that nine months on only 62 of those houses would have been permanently rehoused he would have been laughed out of this chamber - and rightly laughed out of this chamber,” Lloyd said.
Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington, said that some survivors were facing pressure to put elderly relatives into care homes.
Dent Coad said: “A lot of people have been shown nothing that suits their needs whatsoever and they are being asked to put their elderly members of their family into care so that they can be rehoused.”
The Labour MP for the London constituency said that she has heard of three cases where this has happened.
The taskforce report accused the council (RBKC) of failing to effectively translate plans into action.
It also identified a lack of trust in the local authority as a major obstacle to the recovery process.
The report stated:
“The taskforce has not seen enough evidence yet that RBKC’s commitment, strategies, plans and resources are translating into improved outputs or outcomes for enough bereaved, survivors and the wider community.
“Converting plans into action and delivery on the ground remains patchy. For example, RBKC has brought together statutory partners in new ways, and plans have and are being refined as a result. Nevertheless this is not yet translating into measurable improvements to services.
“The gulf in trust between the community and the council also remains a major impediment to progress… that mistrust remains, and it will take many years to change that.
“Until tangible outcomes begin to be felt by the bereaved, survivors and the wider community, this will continue to be the case.”
A quote from Grenfell United, the main body representing survivors and bereaved families, is also included in the report, saying: “We have not seen evidence of a change. We can see there is activity, but it’s still not evident what is actually changing on the ground.
“We can understand that plans can take some time to have an effect, but it is now eight months since the fire and nothing has changed.”
Grenfell United questioned why the council began buying properties “before checking with people what they actually need”.
“People have said they don’t want to live above the second floor or in a property with only one exit, or with windows that overlook the tower – so don’t show them properties on the fifth floor or with only one exit or windows that do overlook the tower,” campaigners said.
Responding to the taskforce report Kensington and Chelsea Council leader Elizabeth Campbell admitted rehousing was “not quick enough”.
Campbell said: “The taskforce is right to point out clear areas for improvement. We accept that more can be done, and more we will do. We have to make sure that the resources and finances we have allocated make a difference to the individuals and families we want to help.
“I’ve read about criticisms on the amount of money being spent, such as the hotel bills. The majority of money spent on emergency accommodation was spent when we had hundreds of people displaced by a devastating and terrifying disaster. We put a roof over people’s heads, and I make no apology for that.”
Campbell acknowledged there were still issues with trust between the council and community.
She said: “The road to recovery is a long one – survivors want justice, they want answers and they want peace. But I want us to play our part. Listen to them, be guided by them and deliver the help, the support, and the home, that gives this journey the best possible start.
“We will look at all the recommendations in detail and respond to Government and the taskforce, and we thank them for their time and their guidance.”