Socialist Worker

Tories starve mental health services for Grenfell victims

More than 11,000 people could be suffering mental health problems as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire. But the Tories aren’t giving services the funding they need, reports Alistair Farrow

Issue No. 2586

The shell of Grenfell Tower is a constant reminder of the tragedy to residents of the nearby estates

The shell of Grenfell Tower is a constant reminder of the tragedy to residents of the nearby estates (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Thousands of people suffering mental health problems as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire are being let down by the Tory government.

Some 11,000 people are estimated to be suffering mental health problems as a result of the fire.

But Sam, a spokesperson for the Central and North West London Trust, told Socialist Worker that the true figure could be even higher. As of last month the trust’s outreach team had contacted people 4,226 times.

“Experience shows that different people come forward at different times,” said Sam.

“Some may need to come back to the NHS again, future events can also trigger a response.”

Therapists working with survivors on the ground back this up. Liz Sippy spoke to Socialist Worker about the types of shock survivors are dealing with.

“With a lot of people the trauma they are suffering is not just about Grenfell,” she said.

“What Grenfell has done is bring back past trauma in their lives and make them relive it.

“Some children feel awful guilt about why they survived and their friends didn’t.

“I treat one young man who is suicidal. There have been suicides and attempted suicides and no one’s talking about it.”

The impact of Grenfell spans across London and beyond.

Families and friends of those who died are spread across Britain and will need treatment but may fall through the cracks in the system.

Sam described how widespread the problem is.

“We are dealing with a few people in other countries who were, for instance, on the phone to a loved one at the time of the disaster,” she said.

“We are also dealing with families who have now arrived to support their own loved ones.”

Liz talked about how volunteers who spent days, weeks and months helping in the aftermath are in need of help as well. “They started immediately and have worked so much,” she said.

“I see young mothers who feel they have neglected their own children because they have been out there helping in the community.”

As ever it is ordinary people—workers and volunteers—who are providing services to Grenfell survivors while those at the top try to avoid responsibility.

Over £2 million was spent by central government between June and December last year on the mental health response. It’s not enough.

The Tories are dragging their heels over every aspect of the response to the fire.

They need to be forced to stop treating people with contempt.

Sam's name has been changed
Grenfell Silent Walk, Sunday 14 January, 6.30pm, Notting Hill Methodist Church, 240 Lancaster Road, W11 4AH. For details go to facebook.com/events/512944812415207/

Deportation threat puts Grenfell migrants in danger

Campaigners demand a full amnesty for undocumented migrants

Campaigners demand a full amnesty for undocumented migrants (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The threat of deportation is stopping undocumented migrants from seeking mental health support. Migrants also worry they could be deported if they come forward with information about the fire.

Immediately after the disaster Theresa May said no one should feel scared about coming forward.

Then immigration minister Brandon Lewis announced a pitiful one-year amnesty for undocumented migrants living in the tower. Now he has said survivors can apply for permanent residence, but only after a five-year period of regular observation by the state.

This has meant that people aren’t coming forward with crucial information for the public inquiry and the criminal investigation. And survivors suffering from various kinds of trauma are not being treated.

“There are a number of people who are too scared to even come to us,” said Liz. “We are worried about not giving help to people who need it.” She pointed out that the amnesty only covers people who were living in the tower.

Jessica said, “The service is provided to anyone living in the area and we have expertise dealing with undocumented migrants—care comes first. We want to reassure everyone that the NHS is here for everyone.”

Healthcare workers want to provide the best care possible. But the Tories’ backtracking over amnesties means that their jobs are harder and the full impact of Grenfell may never be known.


Why won’t Tories pay for safety?

The Tories have backtracked on promise after promise after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Previously Theresa May said that money would not be an object when it came to safety work.

Then she said it is “up to the council to make decisions”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said councils should contact them with requests for funding to make buildings safe.

The Grenfell Tower fire and the anger that refuses to fade
The Grenfell Tower fire and the anger that refuses to fade
  Read More

But when it comes to concrete requests for funding the Tories have refused them time and again.

Housing minister Alok Sharma told Nottingham council that sprinklers were “additional, not essential.”

Now Croydon council has asked for a face to face meeting with the Tory minister after he turned down two previous requests for additional funding.

The Tories’ meanness seemingly knows no bounds.

But that shouldn’t be used as an excuse for Labour councils to pass the costs of fire safety work on to other essential services.

That means a fight will have to be waged to wring cash out of the Tories for sprinklers and other safety work.

Jeremy Corbyn’s petition calling for £1 billion to be made available for retrofitting sprinklers is a start.

Sign the petition at bit.ly/2zA0KpD

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