Shropshire Star

Grenfell, Infected Blood and Covid campaigners unite in call for change

The annual memorial walk in the shadow of Grenfell Tower will take place on Friday evening, seven years on from the fire.

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Grenfell Tower

Communities impacted by major disasters are standing together on the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire to demand that recommendations from public inquiries cannot be ignored.

Exactly seven years on from the west London tower block blaze which killed 72 people, some of those affected by other major scandals are joining bereaved and survivors in remembrance.

Campaigners from the Infected Blood scandal and the Covid Bereaved group are set to attend an annual memorial walk in the shadow of Grenfell Tower on Friday evening.

Former tower resident and Grenfell United member Edward Daffarn said it must not be assumed that seven years after the fire things are better.

Mr Daffarn, who lived on the 16th floor and had long campaigned on safety issues at the tower, told the PA news agency: “I think the anniversary gives us an opportunity just to remind people that so little has changed, so little has been achieved in these seven years in terms of truth, justice and change, and we’re using this anniversary as an opportunity to highlight how little has changed.”

Four of 15 recommendations from phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry which were specifically directed at the Government remain outstanding, including introducing a legal obligation on landlords to provide personal emergency evacuation plans (Peeps) for disabled tenants.

Mr Daffarn said: “The fact that disabled people living in high rise buildings are in just as much danger today as they were prior to the Grenfell Tower fire, despite an explicit recommendation in the phase one report that this issue needs to be addressed by landlords, is nothing short of a scandal.

“It absolutely highlights the need for a national oversight mechanism.”

Mik Parkin charity run
Grenfell United and others have backed calls for a Hillsborough Law (Aaron Chown/PA)

Grenfell United has called for an independent public body to be put in place, responsible for collating, analysing and following up on recommendations from public inquiries.

Mr Daffarn said: “It’s really important that communities impacted by these disasters stand together. We can’t all fight individually. It’s a very simple message that we’re giving to the government and that message is that they need to ensure that recommendations that come out of public inquiries are implemented and we’re standing together now to give that message to the government. They cannot ignore us anymore.

“I think unity is strength. We’ve got so much in common and we speak with one voice in asking whichever party forms the next government to do this for us.”

Backing that call, Lobby Akinnola on behalf of Covid 19 Bereaved Families for Justice (CBFFJ) UK, said he and fellow campaigners are “honoured to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Grenfell survivors, and all victims of state failures who continue to fight for justice and reform”.

Downing Street partygate
Lobby Akinnola (right) with his father Femi, who died with Covid-19 early in the pandemic (Lobby Akinnola/PA)

Mr Akinnola, who lost his father early in the pandemic, said: “We have come together as victims of the state to call for a National Oversight Mechanism, which will help make sure that recommendations turn into action and action turns into change.

“I lost my dad to Covid-19 because the government failed to protect him and systems like the 111 service failed to account for skin colour.

“If – like Covid-19 bereaved families, Grenfell victims, and victims of the Infected Blood scandal, to name a few – you and your loved ones have been let down horrifically by the state, the least you should expect is that the state will learn from what went wrong to save lives in the future. But as things stand, the long fight for justice through inquests and inquiries often leads to little or no change in policy.”

He said currently victims face “the worst, most horrendous of circumstances” in being “forced to fight the state for justice”.

He added: “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life fighting for recommendations to be implemented, but we know from bitter experience that the state doesn’t always learn from its mistakes.

“A National Oversight Mechanism will hold the state to account and ensure that our suffering, and our commitment, isn’t in vain.”

Jason Evans with his father Jonathan, who died when he was four yours old (Jason Evans/PA)
Jason Evans with his father Jonathan, who died when he was four yours old (Jason Evans/PA)

Jason Evans, who was just four years old when he lost his father through the Infected Blood Scandal, said inquiry recommendations cannot be allowed to simply “collect dust”.

The director of the Factor 8 campaign group, who will speak after the march on Friday, said: “Many people feel that inquiries are just a tool for governments to distance themselves from these issues, both in a responsibility context and in terms of time.

“We need to change that, and if the public knew these reports weren’t just going to collect dust, then there would be more confidence.

“I’ll be walking in unity with the Grenfell march today and speaking afterwards, adding our support to the call for an oversight mechanism.”

Grenfell United has also backed calls for a Hillsborough Law, which would, under the Public Authority (Accountability) Bill, include a legal duty of candour on public authorities and officials to tell the truth and proactively co-operate with official investigations and inquiries.

Labour’s manifesto, published on Thursday, committed to bringing in such a law, but campaigners have said that would be “only part of the picture” and that a national oversight mechanism is vital to ensure recommendations are followed through.

The final report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will be published in September.

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