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‘Useless’ council assessments blamed over Grenfell Tower ‘fraud’ claims

Eight people are being investigated by police over alleged attempts to access benefits set aside for those affected by the disaster.

Suspected fraudsters hoping to profit from the Grenfell Tower tragedy initially slipped the net due to lenient council vetting of survivors, it has been claimed.

Eight people are being investigated by police over alleged attempts to access benefits set aside for those affected by the disaster, including two who have been charged.

But one source involved in flagging up several cases claimed concerns were only raised after suspects passed initial council homelessness assessments.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) is responsible for interviewing those claiming to be survivors, who are then given accommodation and the chance to apply for grants.

According to the source, the council department responsible for the process allegedly advised that assessments were non-exhaustive by design.

“We took the case to RBKC housing and we were told that as the matter is sensitive they don’t assess thoroughly,” they told the Press Association.

“The council homeless assessments are practically useless.

“They are taking anyone who claims to live in the tower, while they have a list of tenants.”

RBKC did not reject the allegation, instead saying the initial assessments were “now far more detailed”, taking in information about “housing need and background”.

Cash is available to survivors from a variety of organisations, including a £10,000 “fresh start” grant and payments to those injured or bereaved in the fire.

Two people have already appeared in court accused of separately pretending they escaped the June 14 inferno to access hotel accommodation and money.

Another individual was arrested and bailed by detectives investigating cases of alleged dishonesty, Scotland Yard said on Tuesday.

The Rugby Portobello Trust, one of the main bodies entrusted with distributing charitable donations to survivors, reported the two people charged with fraud to police.

Chief executive Mark Simms said: “One of the biggest problems when you are trying to get emergency aid to people is this fear that people might misrepresent themselves and try and get stuff that they are not entitled to.

“We just took a view that there may be people who might attempt to defraud us and we would just have to attempt to be vigilant and cognisant of that, but thankfully the vast majority of the hundreds of grants that we’ve made have been made to the right people as quickly as possible.

“We want to do this compassionately, without constantly asking survivors to retell their story, to reproduce their ID, to validate, validate, validate.”

He added that fraudsters “actually makes the plight of the people who are reliant on that aid much more difficult because it can slow things down and make things more complicated”.

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(Lauren Hurley/PA)

The source who dealt with such cases said alarm bells would first ring when someone pretending to be a tower resident grew hostile in response to basic questions.

“We ask simple questions like ‘where is your GP?’, because most people have a GP,” they said.

“So they fail to tell us in case we contact their GP to confirm their address.

“People with children, we ask ‘what school the kids attend?’. Schools have (the) address of their pupil.

“They become aggressive when we ask them questions.”

RBKC said it would support the Metropolitan Police during their investigation into cases of dishonest representation.

A spokesman said: “The council is working closely with those households who lost their home, and initial assessments carried out after the Grenfell Tower fire are now far more detailed with information about a family or individual’s housing need and background.

“We take very seriously any information which suggests fraudulent claims for housing, and will investigate these claims in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police.”

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