FIONA ONASANYA

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - YOUR TELEGRAPH -

One of the prob­lems of our 24-hour news age is that ma­jor sto­ries have an all too brief life­span. Gren­fell Tower is al­ready start­ing to re­cede from the head­lines, re­placed by Don­ald Trump’s lat­est Tweet or an­other item about Brexit.

This is un­for­tu­nate. I’ve been to Gren­fell Tower; when the wind picks up, there is a dis­tinct scent that comes from the build­ing’s charred skele­ton. It’s a mix­ture of ash, chem­i­cals, and dust; it’s a grue­some odour born out of an in­ferno. In the wake of that deadly breeze, it’s dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that all the dead have been ac­counted for; it is likely that they haven’t.

And what about the sur­vivors? What are their lives like now? It’s easy to as­sume that all the char­i­ta­ble and gov­ern­ment aid is be­ing put to good use. The Prime Min­is­ter said some­thing will be done and that’s that; we can carry on and move our out­rage on to Trump not com­pre­hend­ing what the Prime Min­is­ter of Aus­tralia was telling him about refugees.

Dig a lit­tle deeper, how­ever, and one finds that life hasn’t moved on.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent ar­ti­cle in the In­de­pen­dent news­pa­per, the ma­jor­ity of the sur­vivors are still in emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion; this is de­spite a prom­ise from the Prime Min­is­ter that all those af­fected would be re-housed three weeks af­ter the fire oc­curred.

Char­i­ties’ good in­ten­tions are of­ten hin­dered by pro­ce­dures in­tended to max­imise their rev­enue. Af­ter the fire, peo­ple do­nated sub­stan­tial sums, cloth­ing, and fur­ni­ture to the vic­tims. How­ever, some char­i­ties as­sessed the items in­tended for the Gren­fell Tower res­i­dents, took those that had the high­est value, and sold them, rather than di­rectly give them to the in­tended re­cip­i­ents. I asked one char­ity worker about this; af­ter a pause, I was merely told that it is a prob­lem.

The com­mon thread is a fa­mil­iar one: there is some­thing in the hu­man psy­che that wishes to tick a box, say “job done”, and then move on.

Our head­lines change, the gov­ern­ment fo­cuses on its in­ter­nal squab­bles, and char­i­ties have the next dis­as­ter to man­age. But a job that isn’t done well is un­fin­ished.

Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea’s coun­cil ticked boxes prior to the Gren­fell Tower fire: they housed dis­abled peo­ple on some of the high­est lev­els of the block.

It’s not prac­ti­cal, it makes care dif­fi­cult, but the box was there to be ticked: find a home for this dis­abled per­son, they did it, job done. The con­se­quences came later; this tragedy should be a memo­rial to the whole idea of “box tick­ing” as a form of gov­ern­ment. Gren­fell Tower should be re­mem­bered and con­tin­u­ally re­flected upon so it can never hap­pen again.

One of my pri­or­i­ties is to change the cul­ture of box tick­ing: much like sort­ing fly tip­ping, it’s go­ing to be a slow, grad­ual process. It re­quires think­ing lat­er­ally and holis­ti­cally about what we’re do­ing.

I sus­pect, how­ever, this change will be es­sen­tial to achieve real progress in how we are gov­erned.

Peter­bor­ough’s MP writes her reg­u­lar col­umn for the Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph

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