Grenfell Tower grandmother ‘likened treatment to torture as a political prisoner’
The 66-year-old had fled violence in Eritrea, but said she felt equally as anguished by Kensington and Chelsea Council’s response to the fire.
A grandmother who was living on the the 23rd floor of Grenfell Tower has compared her treatment by authorities to being “tortured” as a political prisoner, her daughter has claimed.
The 66-year-old Eritrean refugee was not in her flat on the night of the fire, staying instead with her daughter, who was also a former resident.
The younger woman, who asked not to be named, told a council meeting that her mother had felt shunned by mental health services and misled by housing officers.
Despite narrowly avoiding death that night in Grenfell Tower, the family have felt “penalised for being alive”, the daughter told councillors from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) at Notting Hill Methodist Church.
She expressed hurt that both her and her mother were discharged from the mental health services for simply saying they were not ready for treatment, but asking to be checked up on.
Her mother, still homeless, was bounced from housing officer to housing officer over the coming months, but has not secured suitable accommodation, it was claimed.
The daughter told the hearing: “My mum is going to be 67 on Tuesday and she is still in a hotel – she has been in a hotel for six months.
“She is a refugee who lost her home in Eritrea who came here, but the thing that has been most traumatic for us has been dealing with members of the RBKC team, being taken from pillar to post.”
She continued: “My mother was saying to me, because she has faced trauma previously in her life as a political prisoner, she has compared this experience to being tortured back home.
“If that is not mental health, I don’t know what is.”
The daughter said she had attended two surgeries held by an MP to flag up concerns about the adequacy of services offered to survivors.
She said: “The lack of empathy, the constant emails I have to send to people to do their job properly and with reasonable care.”
Referring to earlier comments by one council officer, the woman became tearful as she repeated the charge that her family felt they have been punished for surviving.
“You said this is history – this has not been history for me, I’ve lived this every day for the last six months.
“Each time I see my son I’m so grateful because I know had I stayed, I would have perished.”
Her voice breaking, she continued: “I remember two little girls of three and five who have perished, they were our next door neighbours.
“But by having survived we are feeling penalised for being alive, that is how it feels.”
One councillor said her experience was a “disgrace” and NHS staff in attendance said it was “unacceptable” the pair were discharged, adding they were “really sorry” about the failures.