Yesterday evening there was a meeting of the “Grenfell Community Assembly” , in which the topic discussed was “Emotional health and wellbeing”
Some of us,, still feeling raw after watching Wednesday night’s programme – Grenfell,The Untold Story – and also because of last weekend’s events with the Government briefing the press and obviously trying to push for demolition of Grenfell Tower , didn’t quite feel up to going. We have to say it is tone deaf to say the least, given the topic, for RBKC to not postpone and to just expect residents to feel up to attending , but sadly, that is typical “business as usual” behaviour from them. We did hear that other residents were going so we hope that RBKC were listening.
We do feel that because with RBKC’s poor track record in North Kensington , failures to learn from past mistakes and their preference to make their own decisions, regardless of what others are telling them and what ought to be staring them right in the face – namely this community and its social value – our hopes for this council to listen may probably be in vain.
We also did hear that RBKC had changed the venue last minute from The Harrow Club to The Curve.
RBKC are currently holding a consultation about The Curve and its future. The lease on the building runs out next June (around the time of the 5th Anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire) and they are asking residents to have their say about services (which will no longer be provided in the building ) here:
To us, this looks like RBKC have already made the decision to not renew the lease and this “consultation” is merely a formality.
We have written before about our concerns about The Curve and what RBKC has been doing wrong before, but we have also spoken to some former Governors of The Curve and one of them had this to say to us:
“The strange thing was, when I applied and was interviewed , it all seemed to be very serious, the panel seemed to be very serious, and the other Governors were serious. We were called Governors, but in reality we didn’t govern anything. We had no power at all. It was the ultimate tickbox job and we were reduced to discussing really obvious things like staffing issues, constantly having to chase up on like things that are happening there that really shouldn’t be happening, members of staff who shouldn’t be employed – totally unprofessional things going on, and that’s what the meetings were about a lot of time.”
Our source told us about times when they had meetings where a member of the Grenfell Taskforce was present (who just sat there and did nothing apparently) and the agenda had been set aside.
Regarding how appropriate a building The Curve is for centre for traumatised members of our community, here are some personal notes from our Editor’s diary made in 2017 and 2018:
“Whoever considered a large building that was intended to be used as a hub for small firms sharing workspace, right on the LBHF border, to be an appropriate centre for traumatised residents? “C” (friend and resident) says it’s because RBKC wants us out of the way – not seen and not heard”
‘That place is an assault on the senses; radios, stereos and televisions blaring out. Feel shaken by going there. Was approached several times by professionals who wanted to take my details – refused. Saw a lot of people there who aren’t from here who were using it for the wi fi and to charge their phones and computers. Normally they’ll be in Starbucks or Caffe Nero and only ordering a token latte when staff eventually notice they’ve been sitting there on their laptop for 3 hours”
“Came to the party there and signed in as “THINK blog” and for this , I was then constantly followed around by security to the point of it being comedic – they stopped short of following me to the toilet. Their farcical security efforts at least did give others a laugh though “
And this: “Went to The Curve and signed in as THINK again – then was immediately refused entry and told “no journalists” . Despite “S” and “A” (more friends and residents) telling them that I was a local resident. Sat just outside there instead. What is the point in this? ”
Our former Governor source also said this : “The place was just the worst possible place you could design for traumatised people. The layout, the level of noise, Sometimes they’d be different classes going on only separated by a plastic room divider Really not professional”
As we know RBKC will likely answer these points by saying there was a shortage of available buildings, we do have to point our that they rented The Curve (they never bought it) paying an exorbitant level of rent at the same time they followed through with the plans made by disgraced RBKC former Deputy Leader & Cabinet Rock Feilding-Mellen and equally disgraceful former suit Richard “The Bogeyman” Egan, of leasing the former Westway Information Centre on Ladbroke Grove, a centrally located and much more suitable location for a centre for the North Kensington community (as that is, more or less, what it was before) to Notting Hill Prep School and Pret A Manger.
When one of us approached Jailhouse Rock’s successor, Kim Taylor- Smith about this after a meeting of the then Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee at Kensington Town Hall in 2017 , and giving our views that the Westway Information Centre should have been retained by the council as a community hub and was a far more appropriate venue than The Curve , he seemed to think this was some sort of a laughing matter.
Seriously – our funny photoshopped pictures and nicknames aside – we do have to point out to Kim Taylor- Smith that Grenfell, disaster, trauma and the suffering of our commuunity is no laughing matter and neither is the utter incompetence of the council’s handling of this.
Here is more from our source telling us about their experience as a Governor at The Curve: “There has to be some trust in order to take on a role, you are trusting that the, the other power is going to be some more sincere, so taking that on with a title of Governor Board of Governors. And then, bit by bit we’ve realised the penny drops, we can’t actually do anything. So then we did one last throw of the dice, which was, we simply want to make a proposal for what this place is, what it does, and what the future looks like for The Curve. My idea was, it should become a community centre, A bit like the Tabernacle but for where you live. And that would involve the council buying the building, and investing in it long term. But then one of the other governors had this big idea about skills training for young people for industries of the future so in gaming, and sports industry, things like that.with definite avenues to employment. And that was also a good idea so we combine the two really, and part of it was like a living room feel, but it would be really well thought out, and you’d have it done appropriately for traumatised people, but the main thrust was that we make this a centre for serious training. We worked on this proposal for a long time, but then the meeting with (then RBKC RBKC Grenfell Executive) Robyn Fairman came about and she was just telling us what they (RBKC) were going to do. There was no collaboration. We might as well have been speaking another language.”
Our source also told us that watching Wednesday’s programme and seeing the Grenfell Tower residents speaking to the council reminded them of their time at The Curve: “We weren’t being listened to, we weren’t making decisions. RBKC , Robyn Fairman, Barry Quirk Kim Taylor-Smith and the Government taskforce were the ones making the decisions. It’s a very kind of colonial approach. They put a little body in there to control the locals, keep them quiet, Make it look like they’ve got a bit of power but not at all. On a personal note, it was one of the worst things I’ve ever been involved in probably the worst thing in terms of organisation and the way it was structured. We were traumatised people. That’s why we were doing it – because we wanted to help because we cared.”
They also pointed out that The Curve was supposed to have 12 Governors and now there are only two and as far as they know, no world leading experts on trauma were ever brought in to advise the council over The Curve and managing facilities for traumatised residents.
No doubt RBKC will say how much money they have spent on The Curve and Grenfell Recovery – but that’s just it – stage management.
Our blog has previously highlighted issues of confidentially in other posts and another resident who also works for Grenfell NHS said this to us “Your concerns about confidentiality are justified in some cases. I can’t tell, for example, a young mother who comes to The Curve, contacts myself and my colleagues, and who tells us they are having suicidal thoughts, that their records will not be shared around and they will not be getting visits from social services, the Police or housing officers. It leaves me feeling torn, you know we’re here to help but the thing that is patient confidentiality is not always being respected. The council does access people’s records if they go there – it’s no secret, and if the resident happens to be personally known to council officers , if they are tenants of RBKC , they will likely be flagged up elsewhere and they should not be surprised to find that the council will likely hold a lot more personal information about them then they probably should”
Indeed – concerns about confidentiality and people accessing confidential records has been a real barrier to some residents seeking help for their mental health. Our source here did say that information sharing is not an everyday occurrence and she always makes clients aware of confidentiality and information issues but not every professional did and she did say that some residents had previously signed consent forms without it being ensured they had full comprehension of what this meant.
When the Grenfell night service was running, it was confidential There was help from both NHS staff and local charities available and this was done properly – with people signing consent forms and being aware of what they meant. But RBKC did not approve of this and even demanded that one of the charities invoolved hand over details of their service users. Understandably, having concerns about the sensitivity of their work, their existing services users and well as not putting off others from seeking their help, they refused. It wasn’t too long after this when RBKC pulled the plug on the nigbt service.
One of us is a former user of the night service – it was safe, confidential and very helpful and the only concerns we ever had about it were over the lack of promotion of this valuable service by RBKC and tthat it should have been moved to more suitable secular premises.
So our council, that never promoted this service, which made unreasonable demands on a highly respected long established charity, which never bothered to act on the suggestions that ourselves and many other users of the service made, simply axed it – citing lack of uptake.
RBKC has previously tried to justify their their data sharing by saying they need to monitor and measure service use – fair point- but they completely ignored the sensible suggestions made by several residents to set up focus groups made of consenting residents of different ages and backgrounds in order to do this.
Perhaps if they had, they wouldn’t have completely forgotten about older people in their initial Grenfell Recovery plans.
The level of council incompetence over Grenfell Recovery and the handling of our traumatised community is truly staggering so we’ll remind people of this post of ours again:
And mention RBKC basic communication errors of not communicating with bereaved residents in their respective languages and also the fact that it took them over a year to put together the “Together For Grenfell ” umbrella, in which they only included three of the organisations provided to them by Kensington and Chelsea Social Council on this list:
And of course, if RBKC was truly serious about Grenfell Recovery, then they wouldn’t have scrapped the Council Committee that was supposed to be scrutinising it.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and our thoughts are with everyone affected It is beyond appalling that we have to tell our council that one of the last sightings of a resident who took their own life, was of them turning up at The Curve to seek help around 8pm to find it closed. This was after the night service was axed.
Much more recently, we have heard reports that another resident took their own life at an underground station, many residents have suffered from breakdowns, and other residents suffering were just told to”call 999″. We cannot stress how unacceptable all of this is.
This community is a friendly close-knit one, with many highly skilled residents who are keen to help others out. Our council doesn’t seem to value community-led recovery very much, even when people have made it clear that they are much more comfortable using these services than ones run by the council.
The SPACE, one such positive valuable and helpful resident led community hub, is still in need of storage space for their baby bank initiative.
If the council really did want to move Grenfell Recovery in a more resident-led direction they have a funny way of showing it..
One resident spoke to us about the “Grenfell Community Leadership Programme” and did say they found it helpful, but did question where this would go “because if some of us are doing this trainng , we do wonder what are we going to get at the end of it? Starved of resources and made to bid for the scraps of funding against other community groups? ”
We hope that RBKC and the Government do read this post carefully and especially do take note of what other residents have said. They might be coming from different perspectives on this , but it all amounts to the same thing- that RBKC “Grenfell Recovery” is failing the Grenfell community.
So we will end with some key points our picture is of an “impossible heart”, the impossible being an optical illusion that actually is a lot more possible than it appears
– POINT 1 : TRUST –
It is clear, for very obvious reasons and their poor track record in North Kensington that RBKC is not very trusted among residents here. That should not be an excuse for cutting and removing vital services. The “top down ” “box ticking ” approach to Grenfell Recovery is a shambles .
Trust has to be earned, and it certainly isn’t earned with that approach, by ignoring resident- led initiatives and by deciding they know this community better than the people who live here.
Trust works both ways, and its clear that RBKC does not trust committed residents with either funds or decision making very much. This needs to change.
– POINT 2: RESPECT –
Respect, just like trust has to be earned, and the council has treated residents including those who spoke to us, with zero respect. There is a lot of “talking down ” to people and groups and ignoring others going on – there has been from the beginning and it still goes on now.
Just sitting down at the table with others, treating them like equal human beings and accepting that people who live and/or work in North Kensington will know considerably more about this community, its residents and what works and doesn’t, than suits based at Hornton Street would have been a start.
– POINT 3 : UNDERSTANDING –
Nobody expects others who have never suffered first hand trauma of Grenfell and have not lost their home, members of their family, friends, neighbours to have an innate understanding of what this is, but residents, including the people who spoke to us and indeed ourselves, do at least hope to be listened to. RBKC are certainly NOT “‘Putting Communities first” .
Understanding is also about not getting caught in tunnel vision or black/white thinking, but looking at and exploring the possibilities carefully and examining what is working and what isn’t.
Which brings us to the final point –
THE WHOLE PICTURE
Our “impossible heart” Grenfell optical illusion picture also alludes to the fact that RBKC ‘s approach to the process is stage managed as in “pour money into The Curve and say you are spending this on Grenfell Recovery” and “have fake “consultations when you have made the decisions already” – creating the illusion they are genuinely listening to us.
It’s not impossible to find possible ways forward.
Impossible figures like this heart, only appear impossible – the solution is there, right in front of you – the answer is in how you see it, perspective, and sadly this is how they are getting it all wrong. They have the wrong perspective. . Some at our council, especially Elizabeth Campbell and Kim Taylor-Smith, have accused members of this community of “playing politics”, but by labelling and portraying residents who are communicating with the council and trying to find positive ways forward as “rebels” “activists” and “troublemakers” they are doing just that.
It’s time this was all viewed from a different perspective, and our blog believes that Grenfell Recovery will not work here while RBKC is in charge of it. It’s time to send Commissioners in.