The Inquiry has published an update on its work, including information about limited attendance hearings.
This update provides a digest of:
- Arrangements for holding limited attendance hearings
- Following the hearings remotely
- Support arrangements
- Disclosure figures
- Contact information
- Drop-in sessions
Arrangements for holding limited attendance hearings
The Inquiry will resume hearing oral evidence on Monday 6 July 2020 at 10:00 at 13 Bishop’s Bridge Road on a limited attendance basis.
The Inquiry team has been working with its contractors to put arrangements in place so that a limited number of attendees can use the Inquiry premises safely and in accordance with government guidelines. A thorough risk assessment process has been undertaken by the Government Property Agency to ensure compliance with relevant health and safety requirements.
The Inquiry has made preparations in order to protect everyone involved, particularly those in vulnerable groups, and ensure that their safety is in no way compromised by the wider desire to proceed with Phase 2. The Inquiry’s priority is to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all those who need to attend, maintaining social distance measures and managing touch points. More information about the new arrangements can be found here.
While it was clear from the consultation responses that the consensus among core participants is that the Inquiry should begin taking evidence in limited attendance hearings, the Panel acknowledges the importance of allowing the bereaved, survivors and residents to be present in the building as soon as that is possible. However, as part of an Inquiry concerned with building safety, they also know the particular importance of taking health and safety guidance extremely seriously.
Government guidance remains that two-metre distancing is preferable. A number of those attending are either vulnerable themselves or live with those who are vulnerable and the nature of proceedings means attendees will be within the building together for a protracted period. The Inquiry must, therefore, be especially careful. It is also the case that the attendance of the witnesses in person, which is important to everyone, is in large part dependent on their trust in the Covid-19 precautions in place.
The Inquiry venue has been significantly reconfigured to enable hearings to resume. Whilst it is relatively straightforward to maintain social distancing in the hearing room, that becomes more challenging during break times when people are moving around the building and using the various facilities. The more people in attendance, the greater the risk to all those present, and temporary changes have been made in the use of the break-out rooms on the ground floor to allow the essential technical personnel present to have breaks at a safe distance. In order to protect all those present as much as possible numbers must be restricted to those whose physical attendance is essential for hearings to take place.
As the government updates its guidance, the Inquiry will of course review its arrangements. However, whilst two-metre distancing remains recommended, and ‘one-metre plus’ essential, the Inquiry is duty-bound to ensure that this is facilitated in all areas of the building at all times. The virus is still prevalent and local spikes in cases are still possible, so unnecessary risks cannot be taken.
The restrictions in place are regrettable but it would be remiss of the Inquiry with its responsibility for the health and safety of those present to do anything less.
Following the hearings remotely
Hearings will continue to be streamed online on the Inquiry’s website and YouTube page, with updates via the Inquiry’s Twitter page.
Hearings will continue to start at 10:00 and finish at approximately 16:00. There will be a one hour lunch break at around 13:00, and additional breaks during both the morning and afternoon sessions. Timings can be subject to change due to scheduling and witness requirements, so please check the Inquiry website and Twitter page for updates if following remotely. A provisional witness schedule for the week ahead will be available at the end of each week on the Inquiry website and will be shared on Twitter.
Legal representatives for core participants will be able to suggest questions for the witnesses to the Inquiry Counsel or raise points as necessary via email during the live hearings. Information on this process will be provided directly to legal representatives. The Panel will ensure that adequate breaks are taken in order to enable Counsel to collate and consider any questions and decide whether they should be put to the witness.
Due to current government guidance to avoid gatherings, it is not possible at this time to make arrangements for people to watch the live stream at an alternative venue.
During limited attendance hearings the Inquiry will continue to facilitate wellbeing support as before, but it will be able to deliver the service only by telephone and video conferencing. Bereaved, survivors and residents (BSRs) and members of the public will be able to get in touch with Hestia directly to access wellbeing services by contacting 0800 246 5617 between 09:45 and 16:15, Monday to Thursday.
Hestia will provide a range of services including:
- One-to-one telephone or online support sessions that BSRs will be able to book with a counsellor during the day or at the end of the day’s hearings. Please contact Hestia on 0800 246 5617.
- Drop-in video conference group sessions (twice daily) where BSRs can join a counsellor in a peer support group to support one another and to air and talk through any feelings or concerns. These sessions will start and finish with some resilience exercises, for example paced breathing, grounding and mindfulness exercises and taught resilience tools. For more information and instructions for joining a group session please contact Hestia on 0800 246 5617.
Counselling support services continue to be available for anyone who wants to talk about their emotional wellbeing. The NHS Grenfell Outreach Team is open Monday to Thursday from 09:00 to 20:00, and on Friday from 09:00 to 17:00. Their number is 0208 637 6279. More information, including out of hours contact, can be found on the NHS website.
The Inquiry will continue to arrange interpreters on request for BSRs. This service will be delivered by telephone.
As at 30 June 2020, the Inquiry has disclosed 20,752 documents in Phase 1, and 159,474 in Phase 2, making a total of 180,226.
In line with social restrictions, all Inquiry team members are working remotely to ensure operations continue, but can still be contacted on 0800 121 4282 or by emailing [email protected]
The drop-in session for July has been cancelled in accordance with current guidance on public gatherings. Please email [email protected] if you wish to speak to a member of the Inquiry team.