The British Red Cross is stepping up its involvement and is co-ordinating support for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, after the Prime Minister admitted that the initial response to the tragedy was “not good enough”.
Theresa May said in a statement on Saturday following the fire which broke out in the tower block in the early hours of Wednesday morning that the “support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough”.
She said that there has been “huge frustrations that people do not know who to talk to, that they can’t get through on the council hotlines.
“I have heard the concerns and I have ordered immediate action across the board to help victims’ relatives and the survivors.”
As a result, she said that she has “ordered that more staff be deployed across the area, wearing high visibility clothing, so they can easily be found, dispense advice and ensure the right support is provided. Phone lines will have more staff”.
She said that immediate psychological support for victims and their families would be provided by bereavement charity Cruse and the Red Cross.
The British Red Cross has said that its support line is now the “central point of info for all people affected and will be able to direct people to the help they need”.
In a series of tweets yesterday the British Red Cross said it was “stepping up” its role.
It said: “The new joint London team now running the response operation has asked us to provide more support on the ground. We will be helping to coordinate the community assistance centre at Westway, distributing donations and increasing our support.
“Our support line is now the central point of info for all people affected and will be able to direct people to the help they need. The Red Cross operates on the principles of neutrality and impartiality, to provide humanitarian help to anyone who needs it.”
Mike Adamson, the charity's chief executive, said: "The British Red Cross has been actively helping those affected by this horrendous tragedy since the early hours of Wednesday morning. Our emergency response volunteers have been stationed within the rest centre and are providing both practical and emotional support to people in crisis.
"We will now step up to use our expertise in delivering humanitarian aid to support the establishment and running of a full-service community assistance centre, as well as to help with the donations given by the compassionate public. We will also help to enhance the psychosocial support available, and we are providing a dedicated helpline for people affected."
Charity Commission in talks over future responses to incidents
The Charity Commission has said it is advising the public to continue giving to registered charities through established appeals in order to support victims on the ground.
It said it is working with charities involved, as well as the key online giving platforms, to help them coordinate their response, and ensuring that victims know how to access help.
It said it had been in talks with sector leaders to discuss ways of ensuring a coordinated response in the event of future tragedies.
David Holdsworth, registrar of charities for England and Wales and chief operating officer at the Charity Commission, said: “Those who have suffered in this horrendous tragedy are entitled to feel confident that the funds raised in their name reaches them and their community now, and in the weeks, months and years ahead.
“Looking further ahead, we have begun early talks with established charities with experience of responding to disasters to consider ways of ensuring a coordinated, swift, expert response if and when there are further tragedies. We will be looking to convene sector leaders as a matter of urgency when we have all been able to provide the immediate help and support that is required in West London.”
Police confirmed today that the number of people dead or missing presumed dead after has risen to 79, adding that that figure may still change.
Last week the British Red Cross opened a London Fire Relief Fund on the request of the Kensington and Chelsea council to raise money to support those affected by the fire.
A seperate fund launched by the Evening Standard and raising money through the London Community Foundation had raised £2.2m in two days, while JustGiving pages to support victims of the fire had raised £1.6m by Thursday, the online giving platform has said.
May had announced on Friday that each household whose home has been destroyed as a result of the fire will receive a guaranteed £5,500 minimum down payment from the £5m Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund.
Of this, £500 will be a cash payment and £5,000 will be delivered through the Department of Work and Pensions into banks accounts in a single payment.
Mind receives grant to support emergency services
An additional £1.5m from this fund will also be used to pay for mental health support for the Emergency Services through Mind’s Blue Light Programme.
Faye McGuinness, Blue Light programme manager at Mind, said: “We’re grateful for this additional funding, which will allow us to continue delivering mental health support to our hard-working emergency services staff and volunteers. As recent events have brought to light, Blue Light workers do an extremely challenging job day in, day out, frequently encountering difficult and traumatic situations.
“But they’re not immune to mental health problems – in fact, our own research has found over 9 in 10 emergency services workers have experienced stress, low mood or poor mental health while working for the emergency services, and over one in four admitted that this had caused them to contemplate suicide. That’s why it’s so important that comprehensive, ongoing mental health support is available.”