Confusion reigns over the response to the Grenfell Tower fire as some residents sleep in their cars and others are prevented from claiming promised cash.
Nearly a week on from the tower block blaze that killed at least 79 people, those working with families displaced by the fire have hit out at the chaotic relief effort.
Some of those who lost their flats in the blaze fear being declared ‘intentionally homeless’ if they refuse to a move outside the area, lawyers have revealed.
Residents show their emotions after a minute’s silence for the at least 79 victims of the Grenfell Tower blaze yesterday. Those helping the effort have hit out at support for survivors
More than 400 people were living in the tower block when it went up in flames last week
Local Labour MP Emma Dent Coad told Sky News: ‘People have to be looked after now. They have to be housed now. There’s still total chaos out there.
‘I’m absolutely horrified to hear people have been sleeping in cars and in parks because they don’t know where to go and they aren’t being looked after. Even now after nearly a week that’s still the case.’
Lawyer Khatija Sacranie, who is offering free legal advice to those displaced, said some of the victims were going to collect the aid only to discover they had not completed to correct forms and leaving empty-handed.
She told MailOnline: ‘A lot of people have been scattered. Individuals in small accomodation, far and wide. I’ve heard of someone sent to live in Barking (in the very east of London) by authorities.’
She added: ‘When they were moved initially after the fire, there was no record taken on where they were sent and their needs.
‘There has been confusion about who can claim the money, with some worried that it might affect their benefits.’
A vigil was held in Parliament Square yesterday to remember those killed in the disaster
There is anger at the lack of support for those who lost their homes and loved ones in the fire
Ms Sacranie said there were starting to be some positive stories coming out, with one family who lived in thetower now rehoused in a flat with access to a garden within the borough.
More than 100 people were moved into hotels while longer-term housing can be found for them.
But Jayesh Kunwardia, partner at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, says a lack of clarity over housing policy means many fear being made permanently homeless.
A protester in Parliament Square yesterday. A judge will be appointed to an independent inquiry ‘in the next couple of days’
He said: ‘I’ve already spoken to a number of former Grenfell Tower residents who have refused RBKC’s offer of temporary accommodation outside of the borough and have opted to stay with family or friends instead.
‘However, by doing so, this means that under the council’s current policy, RBKC could now refuse to accept a duty to house them under the Housing Act as they have made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’.
‘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.’
Kensington borough council has been urged to dip into its nearly £300million in reserves to buy up housing or rent properties for displaced families.
A spokesman for the Grenfell Response Team, a taskforce brought in after complaint about the local council’s response, said residents are now recieving the money.
He said: ‘This will be made up of a £500 cash payment and £5,000 delivered through the Department for Work and Pensions into people’s bank accounts in a single payment.
‘The cash payment is available now – either at the Westway Centre, or through the Post Office in Portobello Road.
‘The £5,000 payment is available and assigned key workers will assist households in accessing this.’
Rescue workers are attempting to shore up the building as part of the investigation into the fire
The taskforce denied that anyone is being placed ‘a long distance away’ from their former home.
The spokesman added: ‘Work is continuing to secure emergency hotel accommodation for all households – to date this includes 115 hotel placements for residents of Grenfell Towers and Grenfell Walk and a further 90+ hotel placements for those in the vicinity of Grenfell Tower.’
He said more than 40 families have been assessed for housing in Kensington or a neighbouring borough, with some now given permanent accommodation.
The government has written to the heads of local authorities providing more details to help councils identify a particular type of cladding which is being subjected to additional checks, and that facilities have been set up for testing of samples from Tuesday.
The Prime Minister expects to receive ‘significant updates’ on the help given to people affected by the blaze when she hosts a meeting with Cabinet ministers on Wednesday, No 10 said.
The Lord Chief Justice is set to appoint a judge to oversee an independent inquiry ‘in the next couple of days’, Downing Street said.
‘While it was clear some progress is being made, the Prime Minister will continue to receive daily updates to ensure that the steps taken are being carried forward at sufficient scale and speed that help is getting to people who need it,’ a Downing Street spokeswoman said.