It is difficult to take in the full horror of the tragedy which took place at Grenfell Tower last week. Every memory of survivors or emergency responders adds harrowing new details to this truly awful event. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost friends, loved ones and all they own.
But although we have seen it too often recently, there are aspects to praise and commend even in these darkest of moments. The local community came together, offering all it could to support the victims. Our emergency services once again demonstrated their bravery, professionalism and dedication to saving lives above the natural regard for their own safety.
It is right that there will be a public inquiry into this disaster. If there are lessons to be learned, we will learn them. However, with rescue workers still operating in the debris and the search for the dead and missing still ongoing, our priority must be providing the highest standards of care and support to victims.
A new £5 million Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund has been made available. Every household whose home was destroyed in the fire is receiving a guaranteed £5,500 minimum payment from the fund. This is to help with immediate necessities. Everyone who lost their home in the disaster must be rehoused as close as practically possible to where they previously lived at the earliest opportunity. Until people are rehoused, the cost of temporary accommodation will be met on their behalf. The Government will provide any necessary financial assistance to families who have been rehoused so children and their parents do not incur any extra costs travelling to school. Steps are also being taken to ensure that those affected by the disaster can still access their bank accounts, and receive their normal benefits and pensions.
While we do not yet know the full story of what happened it is critical that we reassure people living in similar high-rise buildings that they are safe. Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, the Government has begun checking at speed with local authorities that all high-rise buildings in their area have complied with recent fire orders.
Locally, I have received assurances from housing associations Orbit and Optivo about their properties. Specifically regarding the high-rise Four Courts in Hastings, I’ve had it confirmed that all blocks have full fire safety risk assessments in place and that residents’ meetings will be held with the housing association and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service over the coming weeks. I would encourage anyone with concerns to read the fire safety advice published by East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.
We must ensure that the scale of recent tragedies is matched only by the compassion in our response, that we continue to do all we can to ensure everyone feels safe in their home and local area, and that we continue to celebrate everything that is best about our communities.