This is Sheila Durr, she used to be Director for Communities and People at RBKC and was supposed to be the Humanitarian Lead for the Grenfell Recovery here. .
We say “supposed to” because Ms Durr was quite possibly one of the most useless suits ever to serve at RBKC ,and is “best” remembered for her role in the axing of a much-needed and missed night service for traumatised members of our community: standing there and doing nothing while a fight between traumatised residents broke out at The Curve, and for completely ignoring emails from numerous concerned residents, including us .
Do-Nothing Durr left Hornton Street in October 2019, after 2 years , in which many residents in our local community were largely ignored, she spent nearly a year as a Senior Consultant at Surrey County Council before heading up north to Bury Council, where worryingly for residents there, she has been the Executive Director for Children and Young People for the past 5 months.Residents under her duty there have our sympathies.
Back at a meeting of the (sadly since scrapped by our council in 2019) RBKC Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee, Sheila Durr had mentioned “Together For Grenfell” which nobody in the room bar the suits – had heard of! One of us asked which groups were involved in this organisation and for an explanation of exactly what it is and Ms Durr responded by saying that it was a consortium of local organisations such as Al Manaar, Al Hasaniya and Midaye.
To more recent times , and RBKC was having a consultation NEARLY FOUR YEARS AFTER GRENFELL about adult health and emotional wellbeing support services in the community. Here is what RBKC said in their consultation blurb:
Since the Grenfell tragedy, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has commissioned a range of community based emotional health and wellbeing support services in North Kensington from the voluntary sector for adults. These have included those under the ‘Together for Grenfell’ umbrella of providers offering 1:1 and group counselling and wellbeing support for adults.
1:1 and group counselling and wellbeing support for adults.
The aims of the Together for Grenfell project is to support isolated community members whose emotional health and well-being had been affected by the Grenfell tragedy, targeting community members who did not feel comfortable or able to access mainstream services. The offer is personalised and built around the assessed needs of the local population and individuals. As a result, the key elements of the offer include:
- culturally appropriate services delivered in languages spoken by the community
- collaboration and partnership with local partners to integrate culturally appropriate services into the mainstream health offer
- support delivered in community settings familiar to local residents, at flexible times that suit them
We are now two years into the Council’s five-year Grenfell Recovery Strategy and we are interested in understanding people’s views on these services, broader services accessed and planning additional services. This consultation is seeking insight from those who live, work and learn in the borough on how we can:
This consultation is seeking insight from those who live, work and learn in the borough on how we can:
- Best deliver the new arrangements under the Together for Grenfell umbrella
- Deliver new initiatives for adults in the community until 2024, which create opportunities for local people to lead their own support, developing and enhancing existing models of support that help people build resilience through social support networks.developing and enhancing existing models of support that help people build resilience through social support networks.
We are left wondeting why was the “Together For Grenfell” umbrella so small? Above is a list of community organisations from Kensington and Chelsea Social Council listed in a report from 2019 – and note that only a tiny handful of them have been included.
Only 3 of these organisations were included in the Together For Grenfell network in fact, and we really want to know why. Perhaps “Do Nothing” Durr was engrosssed in a riveting game of tiddlywinks at her Hornton Street desk?
The abolition of the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee in 2019 left a big hole in the scrutinisation of the council’s “efforts”, so many issues as well as individuals and groups affected unfortunately do not get a look in
The supposed next best thing residents get is the RBKC Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The section of the meeting of that earlier this month was supposed to be about scrutinising the dedicated service for the survivors and the bereaved.
But Chair of the Overview amd Scrutiny Committee Cllr Marie-Therese Rossi insisted at the start of the meeting that she was making it clear it was about about the dedicated service for the survivors and bereaved, but then added “the wider comnunity”.
Well, there is no actual dedicated service for the affected local community who are not classified as survivors or bereaved. We hate to repeat ourselves but we are sick and tired of the misleading “wider comnunity” label becaise it appears to have been attached to residents all over RBKC and it ought to-be clearer that residemts of the immediate North Kensington community are obviously suffering from a far more severe level of grief and trauma than residents who live at the other end of the borough We are disappointed that some councillors appear to be confused about this. Anyway it was down to Anne Cyron, RBKC Lead Member for Comnunities for clarification and to be more exacting and she did state that the meeting was specifically about the dedicated service for the survivors and the bereaved.
Several residents and representatives were present at the online meeting, including Kimia from Grenfell Next of Kin and Natasha and Bellal fron Grenfell United. It was clear from the meeting that RBKC had failed to contact a number of bereaved residents and involve then in the service .Kimia gave several examples of this. Some of the bereaved speaking at the meeting said they had not been involved. Perhaps this situation could have been avoided if RBKC had widened their “umbrella” to include the full list of community organisations that KCSC provided a few years ago? The Grenfell United representatives invited bereaved residents to come along to the Steering Group and get involved. It was obvious that language barriers and communication barriers have prevented some from getting the help and support they needed.
As for the dedicated service, we do have to say that the feedback we have received from the survivors and the bereaved on the dedicated service has been largely very positive, with some praising the efforts of Callum Wilson, the Director of the service . So not all “bad news” here and we think it is now up to RBKC to broaden their “umbrella” and we hope that we do not see or hear any more instances of people being or feeling that they are being left out.
But what about scrutinisation of other Grenfell Recovery efforts? Well, there isn’t really much of that and it doesn’t look like there will be any soon. Anne Cyron said that that other services and community provisions will be scrutinised “at a later date” but did not say when – so that likely means never in most cases, and as for affected younger people, which Cllr Cyron did briefly mention, that will probably get shoehorned into the next meeting of the RBKC Family Services Committee. As for the parents and other family members of affected children, who knows?
The council’s abandonment of our affected comnunity has led to people suffering in silence and some affected residents like us, feeling trapped back in some of the worst stages of PTSD . Sadly , it has also led to unpleasant scenes, and arguments in the community with some affected people wrongly pointing the finger at other affected people. The fact is, it is RBKC who are to blame for this; and certainly NOT any of the survivors or the bereaved who have already been through enough already. They should be and always will be the priority we hope, and there should be no point of contention about this. The point of contention we have with RBKC’s approach, is that they have ended up COMPLETELY forgetting about the affected North Kensington community, trying to fob us off with insubstantial nonsense, and have even been pitting affected residents against others, and community organisations against others
Another point we have to mention is that the council were heartless and inconsiderate enough to not include older people in their initial. Recovery strategy. Do they not think older residents exist? Labour Notting Dale councillor Judith Blakeman has constantly reminded the council of their failure to include and consider older residents but has been met with very little in the way of response except for RBKC to seemingly expect voluntary organistions to pick up the pieces
Other forgotten about affected residents incude those who do not live on large council estates, (including residents in housing co-ops or housing associations, residents in private owned or rented accommnoation and residents who live in temporary accommdoation).
And, if the language and communication barriers are still an issue with the bereaved, this is likely to be an even bigger situation in our community .
The council just tell affected people to go to The Curve but quite a lot of people here find the environment there far too official or clinical – something we ourselves feel and others have said they would feel like they would be taking time and resources away from survivors and the bereaved if they did engage with services at The Curve. The council itself admitted back in 2019 that number of residents were not comfortable with it- but they have failed to provide any alternatives for the community specifically and that has ended up being left to residents
And this brings us back to that night service again. It was staffed by some NHS professionals as well as staff from local charities Hestia and Blenheim. It was informal, confidential, and people didn’t have counselling or NHS services forced upon them – but you knew they were there if you wanted to access them .This is a blog with a huge local following so we will not be retraumatising residents by describing what night terrors are, but many other traumatised residents in the community will know exactly what we mean. That night service provided a safe and confidential space to go for residents experiencing these – sometimes all someone wants is a safe space, a chat and a cup of tea – but apparently for CNWL , West London CCG and RBKC that was too much. Rather than funding this properly, advertising it and moving it to a more appropriate secular setting, CNWL, West London CCG and RBKC scrapped it, with Sheila Durr and former Grenfell Chief Executive Robyn Fairman – another former suit we don’t miss – putting the boot in on behalf of the council – they didn’t back this and clearly they didn’t think that caring for traumatised residents was a priority – we reported them repeatedly trying to axe the service three years ago https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/rbkc-does-u-turn-after-trying-to-axe-grenfell-night-service-for-traumatised-north-kensington-residents-again/
The council, after claiming the night service was poorly attended even though they failed to advertise it, or move to a more suitable setting, didn’t seem to care and it was replaced by a NHS telephone line instead. which we have never used and certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable with ever using. Same goes for many others. And while an in-person service like the much-missed night service due to Lockdown restrictions and Covid would not at the present time be able to function , when restrictions are lifted there will be an increasing need for such services as self isolation has taken a toll on the mental wellbeing of many in our community too This needs to be looked at again .
Other help in the community has come from many of our community groups, many of which are not always properly or fairly supported by the council..In recent times of Covid and lockdown , The SPACE, based at Freston Road, North Kensington has been getting help out to residents (a larger number of our residents than ever before due to Covid and the financial crisis require their help) . Due to a recent outpouring of donations from kind other residents all around the borough, staff at The SPACE have informed us that theu are now running out of actual space to store their donated goods . So we also call on the council to support them and provide then with extra facilities. This is a valued and popular community-led hub and they deserve to be better supported by the council.
RBKC like to say they have always supported The SPACE but their actions have not always matched up to this. Back in pre-Covid times, RBKC even put on “rival” events, at The Curve imitating the program of activities provided at The SPACE.
As for other community groups, there are many outstanding local community groups and voluntary organisations and groups in the locality, we will just briefly mention just a tiny handful of them – LCAT (Latimer Community Art Therapy) at Henry Dickens Comnunity Centre , Kids On The Green, and Solidarity Sports .
RBKC’s response has been to pit some of them against other groups which they did in the “Grenfell Projects Fund” last year, in a tacky game show format, where they had to make a “pitch” much like TV show Dragon’s Den, and the few residents who got in, voted on their favourites using the same keypads from TV game show “Who Wants To be a Millionaire” and the successful organisations who received the most votes, receiving the funding. We did not attend, as even though we are friends and supporters of many of the successsful organisations who took part, we felt and still do feel that this format was inappropriate and tasteless.
At THINK, we strongly feel that our valued community organisations and groups should not be treated like game show contestants; residents should not be competing against each other, affected members of our community shouldn’t have to jump up and down or go on social media in order to get RBKC to acknowledge that we exist.. The council has failed us over Grenfell Recovery and by not restoring Scrutiny , they are still failing us , and until we get a decent appropriate and fair level of Scrutiny, the successful (and the less successful ) Grenfell Recovery efforts are analysed, with community feedback, they will further fail us and no lessons will ever be learned.. This requires is some in depth level of inclusive discussion about what is working and what is not working.
Unfortunately, as long as supposed Grenfell Scrutiny is scattered among various council committees and the general picture of how our community as a whole is affected and what is missing or needed gets properly looked at as a whole, the road to recovery for some will feel more like a road to nowhere. That is why we are calling for the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee to be reinstated and we invite our local readers to join us by completing and sharing this independent Centre for Governance and Scrutiny survey (it only takes a couple of minutes to complete)
If RBKC really wants to demonstrate change, they must first learn to listen to our local residents and respond to our concerns; (by the way, these are not purely personal concerns of the writers of this blog- we spoke to a number of residents, including some community representatives, some survivors, some of the bereaved, some of those in other community or voluntary groups as well as some health professsionals – and sadly the same concerns and issues about people being left behind, about people feeling their voices are not heard, about the lack of Grenfell Scrutiny and about feeling that there was a lack of a dedicated community services for traumatised residents kept coming back).
Change doesn’t happen overnight and it will take years for our comnunity to recover from the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, but surely after everything North Kensington residents have been through, this community at the very least deserves far better than to be treated as an afterthought?