Delays hit Christmas cash promised to Grenfell survivors

Extra cash promised to Grenfell Tower survivors and evacuees to help cover the cost of Christmas failed to materialise for some before the festive break.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) told families and individuals still in hotels or serviced apartments they would get £140 per person to ease December's financial pressures.

It was offered in addition to the basic weekly allowance given to those affected for food, as the Christmas season was expected to saddle people with more costs than usual.

Recent figures showed 101 households from the west London block and nearby Grenfell Walk remained in hotels over Christmas, including 17 families with children.

Many other households evacuated from the blocks next to Grenfell Tower are also still in hotels six months on from the deadly blaze, which killed 71.

Despite the council claiming that all direct debit payments were processed by December 19 and were in accounts by December 22, at least three residents including one survivor from the tower have yet to receive it.

It is unclear just how many people have been affected by the delays.

Furthermore, a helpline for the "Care for Grenfell" team set up by the local authority told residents a different story - that payments might not be received until early 2018.

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Officials informed at least two evacuated tenants that payments were not processed until Friday, meaning a wait of three to five working days for those who receive money through a direct debit.

This could result in some families not having the Christmas support in their accounts until January 2, due to the run of Bank Holidays.

RBKC refused to disclose how many residents received money through the direct debit system.

The authority first pledged to the cash bump earlier this month, but when chased up on the commitment last week, told one evacuated woman that there had been delays.

Tomassina Hessel, 31, who remains in a hotel with her four-year-old son after being forced to leave one of the nearby blocks, told the Press Association: "They said in writing that it would be there by Christmas and then they didn't do it - it is just another thing that they say they are going to do and didn't do."

The mother said she spoke to a female call handler at Care for Grenfell on Friday.

"She said 'your payment hasn't been processed because housing forgot to send the list of people in hotels to finance'," Ms Hessel said.

RBKC said on Tuesday morning that "incorrect information may have been given by the Care for Grenfell team, and we'll investigate that internally".

People look at tributes at Notting Hill Methodist Church near Grenfell Tower (Isabel Infantes/PA)
People look at tributes at Notting Hill Methodist Church near Grenfell Tower (Isabel Infantes/PA)

But, hours later, evacuated resident Joe Delaney was given the same information by the team after he too did not get the payment.

He was told that any money sent to residents through Bacs, a company which handles direct debits, will not be received for three to five working days after being processed on Friday.

Some residents have money loaded onto pre-paid cards by the council instead and did not experience a delay, he was told.

Mr Delaney said: "I first spoke to them at the last scrutiny committee (on December 5), really they had plenty of notice.

"They talk a good game, but, as usual, their actions speak louder than words and the way they have reacted to this disaster proves to me that they are not fit for purpose."

One survivor from Grenfell Tower, who asked to remain anonymous and is still in a hotel, confirmed he had not yet seen any of the Christmas money.

A mother and daughter from the neighbouring blocks told Mr Delaney they had not been paid, while a mother with several children also reported to Ms Hessel that she had received no money.

An RBKC spokesman said: "Everyone is receiving the top-up payments, which are in addition to the £300 normal weekly food allowance.

"If for any reason anyone has not received the payment, we will look into it and make sure the money is transferred as soon as possible."