The legal profession has stepped up efforts to provide support to the victims of last week's fire at Grenfell Tower in West London.
Lawyers and specialist housing advisers from homelessness charity Shelter and the Housing Law Practitioners Association are working with North Kensington Law Centre to run free daily drop-in advice clinics from today. The sessions, at Unit 15, Baseline Studios, Whitchurch Rd, will run from 10am-5pm every day.
Shelter says it expects the slots will be filled by volunteer lawyers but the scheme will be reviewed if there is a surge in demand.
The law centre has been working throughout the weekend to help hundreds of people needing immediate legal assistance. It will hold a residents' meeting at 6.30pm today at its office to help victims learn more about their legal rights and how the centre can help.
The centre is also seeking to raise £100,000 to help victims receive access to justice and legal support. As of this morning it has raised £20,567. Its JustGiving page states that the centre has been 'inundated with kind offers of help'.
Meanwhile the centre's director, Victoria Vasey, confirmed that the centre has written to home secretary Amber Rudd, urging her to waive the fees for victims whose vital documents have been destroyed or need to be replaced.
The letter states: 'Over the coming days and weeks the law centre will be assisting those individuals who have lost all of their documents in the fire. This will involve making applications to the UK Visa and Immigration Departments.
'Given the situation, these survivors are unlikely to have any supporting documents or the financial resources to pay Home Office fees for replacement documents. I am therefore writing to you to seek assistance in co-ordinating their applications.'
The letter continues: 'It would be ideal to have a named person within UKVI to liaise with on the understanding that fees will be waived, discretion as to supporting documents will be exercised and that where possible applications are prioritised. Clearly the lack of immigration status documentation is going to impact on these individuals in terms of rehousing, employment, accessing bank accounts etc.
'I believe that without your intervention or the issuance of an internal memo any application we submit will be rejected out of hand.'
The Home Office is looking at how best it can support people directly affected by the fire, the Gazette understands. Those affected who have questions about destroyed travel documentation should call the HM Passport Office advice line on 0300 222 000 and they will be directed to a specialist team.
Over the weekend the government announced that every household whose home has been destroyed as a result of the fire will receive a guaranteed £5,500 minimum down payment, made up of £500 cash and £5,000 delivered through the Department of Work and Pensions.
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged funding for legal representation for residents to ensure their ‘voices are heard’ during the future public inquiry into the tragedy.