By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2859

‘So little has changed’— Grenfell survivor speaks out

Over 72 months on the survivors of the Grenfell tower are still battling for justice for themselves and all those in unsafe housing
Issue 2859
Grenfell racism Tories justice

Firefighters and activists on the fourth anniversary of Grenfell fire (picture: Guy Smallman)

“It’s been a very frustrating, disappointing and upsetting experience. We shouldn’t be where we are six years on after Grenfell with so little changed.” That’s what Grenfell survivor and Grenfell United committee member Edward Daffarn told Socialist Worker, 72 months on from the west London tower block fire that killed 72 people.

“In the days after the fire, standing in the shadow of the carcass of Grenfell Tower, I was convinced this would be a catalyst for societal change.

“Here we are six years on, with a growing sense of frustration turning into anger.”

Edwards slammed the delay of the report from Phase Two of the public inquiry. He said it’s “shameful” that the Tories have not enacted the recommendations from Phase One.

 “The government has found a way of sidestepping the recommendation that disabled people living in high-rise buildings are issued with personal emergency evacuation plans,” he explained.And deadly cladding as well as other health and safety issues have not been resolved.

“This is unforgivable,” Edward said.

“People living in social housing are suffering the same sort of ill-treatment we received in Grenfell prior to the fire, in terms of not being treated with respect or dignity.”

“The perpetrators are still walking around with no consequence. Some of the companies like Celotex, Kingspan and Arconic were intent on making more profit. Seeing the only thing that’s happened is their profits go up since Grenfell is very, very difficult.”

Grenfell United—an official group of bereaved and survivors—is fighting for truth, justice and change. “For me truth can only be delivered through this public inquiry,” Edward said.

“None of the corporate, core participants are willing to take any responsibility for any of their actions.

“We didn’t lose 72 people for nothing to change. We shouldn’t be treated like third class citizens because we’re in social housing. It’s mindblowing.”

Edward was part of The Grenfell Action Group, run by residents who were concerned about the safety of the tower and new refurbishments being made to the building before the fire.  Kensington and Chelsea council dismissed them as “rebel residents”.

Edward argued that those in power are “incompetent, indifferent and incapable of action”.

“Six years down the line we’ve been failed—we haven’t failed. There’s been time. It’s about will, the lack of political will to deliver for us.”

He said that for survivors and bereaved, “We want to be able to get on with our lives in some sense. We’ll never really get closure. It’s still raw.

“As long as we have all these failures, we can’t give up or get back on with our lives.”

Edward also said the fact social housing is still not delivered properly is “unbelievable”. “It’s not just Conservative councils. Labour councils are just as guilty. Not a single local authority seems to resist the law of property development.

“It’s not about homes—it’s just about profit and greed.”

Edward added that he thinks the community around Grenfell is “something to really be proud of”.

“Yet it’s something that becomes an easy target. We were labelled with the most appalling stereotypes after the fire, none of which were true and so far away from our reality.

“We had energy, our own agency, a willingness to speak out. It was so diverse in all different ways of ethnicities, socio-economic and religious diversity. We were proud that we had such a diverse community functioning in such a coherent way.

“We can’t show that anymore because it’s gone. But that sense lives on. We can advocate for ourselves and coherently put answers forward in a dignified, respectful manner.”

“If Hillsborough should’ve taught politicians that communities that experience such trauma should not, three decades after, still be fighting for justice. We’re heading towards the first decade of Grenfell with that same feeling.

“It’d be terrible if it’s left to our children to get the answers and changes that should’ve come straight away.”

‘Expose the people in power’ 

From Grenfell to the Covid pandemic, Edward told Socialist Worker that he thinks that those in charge “protect themselves to make sure change or truth doesn’t come out.

“Terrible things happen and we seem incapable of responding in a way that would try and put that right. “Indifference and greed are at the heart of that.”

Edward hopes that provision in the new Social Housing Regulation Bill could see some change but added, “It should never have taken so much campaigning.

“It doesn’t go far enough. But it’s a step in the right direction.”

And in terms of the next six years he wants “the inquiry report to put blame where it needs to go”.

  • Grenfell Silent Walk, Wed 14 June. Assemble from 6pm at Notting Hill Methodist Church

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