Grenfell Tower protests. Image credit: Shutterstock, Ms Jane Campbell.

Following Grenfell: why is the Commission involved?

More than 70 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, in homes managed by the State. They included children, elderly people, disabled people and migrants. Many hundreds more were severely affected, both on the night itself and during the months since.

The events surrounding the fire and the following treatment of survivors, their families and the community, raise serious human rights and equality questions around issues such as the right to life, the right to adequate housing, access to justice, the rights of children and disabled people.  

Under human rights legislation, public authorities such as the government and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, have responsibilities to treat everyone with fairness, dignity and respect. We are determined to make sure these duties are highlighted as the public inquiry progresses and the national debate around this tragedy continues.

The Commission applied to be a core participant in the inquiry but our application was declined. Read our application to the inquiry (PDF) to find out more.

We don’t intend to replicate the work of the official Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Although there will be some overlap, we are focusing on areas that are not being explored in the public inquiry or elsewhere.

Is this an inquiry?

We are not using our formal inquiry powers to do this work. We believe we can explore the issues, comment on the public inquiry and the evidence it hears and make recommendations without using our statutory powers.

If we need to use our formal powers to investigate potential unlawful acts under the Equality Act 2010 or assess compliance with the public sector equality duty, we will do so.

Who is working on this?

Our work is led by the Commission’s legal team. Karon Monaghan QC and Jason Pobjoy are providing expert legal advice and we will draw on a range of sources for evidence and commentary. If you would like to get in touch about our work, please email the Grenfell team.

What issues are we looking at?

The State’s duty to investigate

  • how has the State carried out its duty to investigate deaths and incidents of inhuman and degrading treatment, where it may be involved?
  • are the current arrangements, including the public inquiry itself, adequate?

The right to life

  • how far did various State bodies carry out their human rights duties to protect life?
  • what laws should have protected the safety of Grenfell Tower residents?
  • what arrangements were in place for ensuring that residents’ concerns were heard?

Support for people who’ve suffered inhuman and degrading treatment

  • what support can people who have suffered ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’, like many survivors and others affected by the fire, expect from the State?
  • what immediate and long-term support, such as medical treatment, counselling, care and housing, can they expect?

The State’s duty to provide adequate and safe housing

  • was the housing provided to Grenfell Tower residents adequate?
  • were the rights of specific groups, in particular children, disabled people and older people, properly considered in fire safety arrangements?

Access to justice

  • how easy was it for tenants and residents to obtain legal advice about the condition of Grenfell Tower?
  • was adequate legal advice provided before and after the fire?
  • did the availability of legal advice affect residents’ ability to make complaints about fire risks?

Support for children

  • how have children affected by the fire been treated since, in terms of things like psychological support, housing and education?

Preventing discrimination

  • were there any policies and practices in place that discriminated against people on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation (known as ‘protected characteristics’)?
  • what adjustments were made to policies or to Grenfell Tower itself, such as escape routes, to accommodate the needs of disabled residents, children and pregnant women?
  • did the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea comply with the public sector equality duty (PSED) in its policies on allocating homes and distributing resources?
  • is it doing so now in its decisions about Grenfell Tower residents?

Above all, our aim is to ensure the human rights and equality dimensions of the fire and surrounding circumstances are not overlooked, and to do all we can to ensure that similar tragedies do not happen in future.

Last updated: 01 Jun 2018