I Survived The Grenfell Fire. Boris Johnson Still Hasn't Delivered On His Promises

Natasha Elcock
·Grenfell Tower resident and chair of Grenfell United
·4-min read

A year ago, Sir Martin Moore-Bick published his first round of recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The prime minister promised us the government would implement the recommendations in full. “That commitment is absolute,” Boris Johnson said, “because if any good is to come of this senseless tragedy – a tragedy that should never have happened – and it is to become a catalyst for change.”

A year on and that “absolute commitment” isn’t so absolute after all.

In the fire we lost our homes, 72 of our loved ones died and our community will never be the same. We’ve looked to the Hillsborough families for inspiration – their determination and fight for justice over decades. But we’ve always hoped that justice would come sooner for us.

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That one of the legacies of Hillsborough would be our families wouldn’t have to wait so long or fight so hard – that our children wouldn’t grow into adults still waiting for resolution for the trauma they experienced that awful night.

But with each passing year it becomes clearer that the system is stacked against us and promises so easily made by politicians are rarely kept.

There has been progress – we’ve fought for it. Dangerous cladding has been banned, new legislation going through parliament sets out to overhaul the nation’s unfit construction industry and the London Fire Brigade is planning new training for managing major incidents and handling emergency calls.

But, across the board, most of the recommendations have not yet been implemented, and there are signs the government is back tracking on key changes.

The London Fire Brigade still has many recommendations to implement, the government is allowing landlords and developers to water down change, and the same group of experts that failed us before the fire are being allowed to get away with it again.

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The biggest of Sir Martin’s findings was that the external wall of the tower was so dangerous it “promoted the spread of fire”.

But not a day goes by when we don’t hear more stories of families trapped in homes wrapped in combustible cladding. The government’s strategy to deal with the crisis has failed and they are passing the buck to families who are trapped in these homes.

Once again it’s been left to residents to raise their voices about the safety of their buildings and new residents are joining the #EndOurCladdingScandal campaign every week. But still those in charge are not listening. It is a reminder of what happened to us before the fire.

A year on from Sir Martin's report, we have learnt what many have learnt before us – inquiries might help with the truth but they don’t deliver change unless those in power act.

Sir Martin also ruled there should be a national evacuation policy. Many of our loved ones were told to “stay put” even as Grenfell went up in flames. But the National Fire Chiefs, led by Roy Wilshire, have, so far, failed to deliver this.

The government is also ignoring the recommendation for disabled people in high rises to have evacuation plans. Now, the family of Sakina and Fatima Afrasehabi, who died in the fire, are bringing a Judicial Review to force the government back on this. Sakina was disabled and her family believes she and many others would still be alive if the council landlord had made an evacuation plan.

It is imperative this recommendation is not diluted or disregarded and change is brought for the many other families across the country.

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We all have a right to feel safe in our homes. It should not be down to families to fight for changes the government already promised it would make. Survivors and bereaved families gave witness testimony to the Grenfell Inquiry – we relived our trauma and our experiences in the hope that it would bring truth and change in honour of the 72 lives that were lost, and the many more who suffered.

The day we heard the findings of Sir Martin’s report was overwhelming. The details, the clear recommendations, it was the first sign we had that we had been listened to and change would come. Sir Martin did his duty that day to deliver a thorough report. But it will all come to nothing if the government does not keep its end of the bargain.

A year on from that report, we have learnt what many have learnt before us – from Hillsborough to Stephen Lawrence – inquiries might help with the truth but they don’t deliver change unless those in power act.

The system is stacked against us. But we will not allow this to be another report that gathers dust until the next tragedy happens. We want justice and change and we are not going away until we get it. That is our absolute promise, and we keep our promises.

Natasha Elcock is a survivor of the Grenfell Tower fire and Chair of Grenfell United.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.