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Grenfell Inquiry: How far has the search for answers got?

Survivors and families will have to wait until next year to find out the report’s final conclusions

Over 300 public hearings held, 1,600 witness statements taken, and 320,000 documents disclosed. In the six years since the fire which claimed 72 lives, the Grenfell Inquiry has unearthed a dizzying volume of evidence at a cost of £150m to the taxpayer. But has it produced answers?

Called by then-prime minister Theresa May the day after the fire, the inquiry began hearing evidence in September 2017. Phase one, focusing on the events on the night of 14 June 2017, published its findings in October 2019.

It found that the refurbishment of the tower breached building regulations, and recommended increased inspections of high-rise buildings and fire doors, along with national plans for evacuating tower blocks.

The tower’s cladding “acted as a source of fuel” for the fire, said chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick in his report.

But there were also “systemic” failings in the emergency response to the fire, including the “stay put” policy which led to a delay in evacuating the tower, and a lack of training on combustible cladding.

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Phase two, beginning in January 2020 and delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, finished in November 2022. Those affected by the fire are waiting for the final report.

The second phase took a wider look at the issues around the fire, including the 2015-16 refurbishment of the tower and the government’s response to the tragedy. Manufacturers found themselves in the dock, and a picture emerged of how the tower came to be covered in its deadly cladding.

As evidence revealed failed tests and ignored warnings, survivors of the fire found their lives still disrupted, with some still living in temporary accommodation as the hearings went on.

There has been criticism of the inquiry from survivors and families, who wanted it to look at issues of race and class, and said the treatment of social housing had been overlooked. Testimony given during the inquiry has inspired books, TV shows, and two verbatim plays – Grenfell: System Failure and Grenfell: Value Engineering.

Along with the devastating impact on hundreds of families in London, the wider questions raised by the fire and its inquiry are yet to be resolved.

As The Big Issue has reported this week, the cladding nightmare continues across the country, despite years of government promises.

The final report is due next year, and the wait for answers has been criticised by the Grenfell United group, who say “justice is being kicked further down the road”.

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