On Friday 14 June, Britain will pause at 11am to hold a minute’s silence in remembrance of the 72 lives lost during the Grenfell Tower fire on this day two years ago.
During this moment of reflection, I hope you’ll be joining me and hundreds of thousands of people from across the country as we take time to pause and remember the community affected by the fire.
But this also serves to remind ourselves that there’s still important work to be done.
Like many other organisations, we’ve been on the ground supporting the community since the day of the fire. But acute housing problems in the area mean our services continue to be in high demand. Currently we’re working with over 100 cases and still see up to 10 new households a week.
With the support of our partners, the Westway Trust, Space, Kensington Citizens Advice Bureau and North Kensington Law Centre, we’ve been able to help 464 individuals and families in the two years since the fire.
We’ve been also been speaking out: feeding into council consultations for the Wider Grenfell Rehousing policy, providing expert policy advice and ensuring the voices of local residents are heard.
Better regulation is needed
Although almost all residents of Grenfell Tower and Walkways have now accepted permanent offers of housing, not everyone has yet been able to move in. We’re also seeing new, as well as long-standing, issues emerging.
To tackle the root cause of this, it was clear something had to change. The fire at Grenfell Tower highlighted the extent to which social housing tenants felt ignored – that’s why Shelter started the Big Conversation.
During this consultation, we listened to 31,000 people who gave their views on social housing. 16 expert commissioners – ranging from Grenfell Tower residents and community leaders to politicians from across the political spectrum, such as Baroness Warsi and Ed Miliband – then drew up recommendations based on these conversations.
One of the messages we clearly heard from social housing tenants was the need for better regulation – to improve the condition and safety of social housing, and the treatment of residents. That’s why we’ve joined the chorus of campaigners supporting Grenfell United’s demands for a new, tough social housing consumer regulator.
We won’t stop campaigning until we win change – and we’ve already seen important progress. After pressure from campaigning groups and Shelter supporters, the government have now committed millions of pounds to remove and replace cladding on around 170 other high-rise buildings. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of supporters also made their voiced heard, signing the petition and tweeting their MPs to successfully demand a Fitness for Human Habitation Bill. The government are now consulting on better regulation of safety in high-rises, but we must continue to push for new regulation to make sure all social tenants feel safe in their homes.
We need more social homes
But as well as improving social housing, we need much more of it. Over the last 40 years the decline of social housing has been at fault for many of the issues in our current housing system. This is having an impact across the country – including in the community around Grenfell Tower. A lack of social housing is one of the factors preventing people moving on with their lives and being able to stay in their community, with friends and family.
The conclusion of our Big Conversation was clear – we need a major new investment in social housing, delivering 3.1 million more social homes. This will ensure that social housing can provide an affordable, secure, safe home for all those who need it.
We’ve taken this campaign on and together with Shelter campaigners, we’re demanding change. So far, over 55,000 supporters have made their voices heard calling for bigger and better social housing.
It’s clear that our work around Grenfell is not yet over. The lasting impact on each and every generation in North Kensington cannot be underestimated. Our advice and services are still in high demand, and we must continue our campaigns to ensure lasting change. We must never let a tragedy like this happen again.