Free legal help for Grenfell Tower blaze victims

Lawyers are working with housing charity Shelter to provide free legal advice to those affected by the fire at the Grenfell Tower high rise in Kensington, London.

At least 17 people are confirmed to have died in the fire that spread through the 24-story building on Wednesday morning, and scores injured.

Simon Marciniak, chair of the Housing Law Practitioner’s Association (HLPA), confirmed that Shelter had contacted the group to help coordinate a response for those whose homes have been lost or damaged in the fire.

It is understood that in cooperation with the HLPA and the Law Society, Shelter hopes to set up a free pop up clinic or helpline staffed by lawyers who will provide free legal assistance at the appropriate time.

North Kensington Law Centre is located in the shadow of Grenfell Tower and is within the security cordon. Staff have only just regained access to their office, although they have been contactable through email and voicemail throughout.

As spokesperson for the Law Centres Network said: ‘North Kensington Law Centre is working to offer local advice to people affected by the fire, and calls on them to get in touch. The team have already seen several people but many others are, understandably, not ready to engage yet.’

Sara Stephens, a housing partner at London firm Anthony Gold, said that different levels of help would be required in due course.

She said: ‘The priority will be to ensure people have a roof over their head. Those affected cannot sleep on the floor of a sports hall for more than a day, and we need to ensure that the council is helping everyone not just those who are old or vulnerable. All residents of Grenfell Tower are in priority need under the Housing Act 1996 because they are fleeing an emergency, regardless of whether they are old, young or disabled.’

A statement on the website of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: ‘The Council is helping those affected and in need of emergency accommodation. It is also giving financial assistance to cover their immediate needs. Our immediate priority is to accommodate the residents of Grenfell Tower, families with young children, the elderly and the vulnerable. We are still placing households and housing officers are continuing to work to provide assistance and support.’

Stephens added: ‘We also need to make sure that the residents are not transferred out of London. It is the practice of a lot of London boroughs to seek to house people outside of London, because it is cheaper. We need to ensure that people who have already been traumatised are not put through more upheaval.’

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