Monday, January 29, 2018

Grenfell survivors fight to keep therapists

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.”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mounting anger at huge rise in fire deaths

THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) last week reported that its London members are deeply upset and angry to learn that the number of people killed in fires has risen sharply in the capital, according to the latest figures released by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) this week.  
In 2016, the latest year for which figures have been made available, there were 46 deaths in London caused by fire, up from 33 the previous year – a 40 per cent increase. The figures, published in the LFB’s Fire Facts briefing, do not include the 71 victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Paul Embery, FBU executive council member for London, said: “We are deeply concerned at the correlation between the rise in deaths following the deepest cuts to the brigade in its history, which were pushed through by the former mayor [Boris Johnson].
“This disturbing increase has happened at a time when over 1,000 frontline firefighter posts have been ditched, 10 fire stations closed, and specialist rescue equipment and fire engines have been removed from service.
“In recent years firefighters have had to work with one hand tied behind their backs. Station closures and fewer fire engines mean it is taking longer for fire crews to make it to the incident scene. This means they arrive after the fire has become more intense, when the possibility of rescuing victims becomes fainter and the work far more dangerous.
“Critically, overworked firefighters are now struggling to provide the preventative fire safety work which has historically driven down the number of fatal fires.
“Firefighters welcome mayor Sadiq Khan’s commitment not to make any further frontline cuts to the brigade. However, we need to look at adopting a strategy that gives the brigade the funding it desperately needs in order to drive down fatal fires.”
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack also raised serious concern over a multi-million-pound donation to the LFB by the London Freemasons.
The Masons will gift LFB £2.5 million for the purchase of two extended height aerial vehicles. London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton had asked for the specialist equipment as part of a review into the brigade’s resources that she was asked to undertake by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in July.
But now the vehicles will be provided for on a charitable basis. The FBU says it is extremely concerned that a life-saving public service is now relying on handouts rather than adequate funding from the Government.
Matt Wrack said: “Whilst we appreciate the charity of anyone who wishes to support our firefighters, the idea that a professional, life-saving public service has to go around with a begging bowl to organisations with deep pockets is deeply alarming.
“If the equipment is needed to save lives, then the funding for it should be provided by Government. This deal sets a pretty awful precedent that could allow the Government to discharge its responsibilities in the future.
“We also have grave concerns that the donation in question has come from an organisation that disbars women from joining – a deeply offensive practice that needs to come to an end.”