SURVIVORS of the Grenfell Tower fire last June have told the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) of their dismay and distress at the council’s plans to cut the services of volunteer complementary therapists who have been helping them to cope with the trauma of the fire, in which at least 71 residents died.
RBKC has told the therapists that they must leave their positions at the Curve community centre in west London by Friday 26th January.
The therapists belong to Complementary Support Teams UK (CSTUK), a service that provides support for victims of disasters, which has been helping around 150 survivors of the Grenfell fire.
It is unclear exactly what services will replace those provided by CSTUK, though a number of therapists remain at the Curve. A draft strategy document from the council says that the aim is to have a single lead provider of regulated complementary therapy services, linked to the NHS, for Grenfell survivors, and that the council will be recruiting therapists between now and April. The council says the volunteer therapists are welcome to apply for jobs at the Curve.
But Jane Lawson, who set up CSTUK and volunteers with survivors, said that many of the volunteer therapists combine their help for Grenfell survivors with day jobs in clinics, teaching and other commitments.
“We have 150 survivors and other residents on our books who we are currently providing therapies to. They are in the middle of a programme of therapies and this programme is going to be cut on Friday,” said Lawson.
“We have built up relationships of trust with the survivors. Many survivors don’t want to use services provided by the council. Is the council not listening to what survivors want?”
CSTUK also says the council intends to restrict future complementary therapy treatments to just four sessions per person. Lawson says her team currently tailor sessions to each individual survivor and do not have a limit.
Distrust between survivors of the Grenfell fire and the local authorities is strong. One survivor told the Guardian: “Since the fire, my partner has built a relationship of trust with her specific therapist. She finds it hard to trust anyone after being let down so many times. I find it very disturbing that they want to take this as well from us. They have already taken everything else from us.”