As we rapidly approach the four-year anniversary of 2017’s Grenfell Tower tragedy, there is still little clarity for Grenfell’s victims, their families, or the hundreds of thousands of other people who continue to live in potentially dangerous homes.
Two weeks ago, a tower block fire in East London delivered a stark reminder that the problems which contributed to the Grenfell tragedy are still prevalent up and down the UK.
The fire at the east London block, fortunately, didn’t kill anybody, but it’s believed that the fire was able to spread like it did because the building is covered in the same external cladding found on Grenfell.
Up and down the country, people living in potentially dangerous homes are feeling stranded, scared, and let down by the government.
The Evening Standard has written about a London mum whose two teenage daughters are feeling anxious and full of fear, afraid to be alone in their home in case a fire breaks out.
Ms. Heagren says that fears around the safety of their home have caused a severe decline in the mental health of her children.
“My eldest daughter’s behaviour has gone downhill,” said Ms. Heagren. “Her anxiety is through the roof and she is now seeing a school councilor and being assessed by an educational psychologist.”
Ms. Heagren added that, as time continues to pass, her daughters have become increasingly fearful of being left home without an adult – instead of going home after school, they will wait for her at a nearby bus stop.
Facing Huge Bills
Those who aren’t suffering from mental health decline following Grenfell and the government’s relative inactivity in the years since may still be suffering from great financial pressures.
Flat owners are being left with bills for tens of thousands of pounds to replace cladding around their homes, even though it’s usually the fault of the building developer who chose to use the flammable material for external cladding.
Even people who live in council-owned buildings are facing huge bills – The Mirror has reported a story about a man called Harry in Birmingham. He’s received a bill for more than £30,000 for repairs to the cladding of his flat, but has been given no information at all as to why the amount is so high and what exactly his money is going to be used for.
“I just need to know where my money is going and what it is going on. I’m in the dark about what I’m paying for. I can’t settle the stress in my mind as I’m continuously thinking about it.”
A more promising but equally frustrating recent cladding story comes from Barratt Developments, a leading UK housebuilder that has become the first big developer to buy back flats that have been affected by the cladding scandal, relieving the stress on their leaseholders.
This, however, only comes after major structural issues were identified at the South London Barratt site, so much of the supposed generosity is actually more akin to a big developer covering its own back. Furthermore, will they be buying flats back at a good price, or will they buy them cheap in order to eventually flip?