Grenfell Tower art therapy class cancelled after Kensington and Chelsea changed locks 'without warning'

Therapist says keys only delivered because she complained to local MP and councillors 

Will Worley
Saturday 01 July 2017 00:24 BST
A boy looks upwards at the remains of Grenfell Tower
A boy looks upwards at the remains of Grenfell Tower (Getty)

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Residents were left “very, very upset” after they were forced to cancel an art therapy class near Grenfell Tower because the locks had been changed at their community centre.

It is claimed Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which also managed Grenfell Tower, did not inform residents of its plans to change the locks at the Henry Dickens Court community centre on Tuesday.

Susan Rudnik, a local art psychotherapist who has been granted funding to manage sessions at the centre, said: “This is the sort of thing they should be backing and giving space to.

“We set up an incredible space in the heart of our community and it should be celebrated. Not made to feel like we’re doing something wrong.”

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KCTMO said it had had to carry out repair work after vandals targeted the centre, and fix a fire door.

The company supplied the keys later on Tuesday but Ms Rudnik claimed they only arrived after she contacted recently-elected Labour MP Emma Dent Coad and local councillors to complain – and after drop-in visitors had gone home.

Ms Rudnik, who works for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and is a part time lecturer at Goldsmiths University, is holding therapy sessions for local youngsters to process their emotions following the fire.

“It’s a space for them to process the enormity of everything that’s gone on,” Ms Rudnik told The Independent. “It’s non-direct, we’re not specifically treating anything, we’re just providing a space for children to express themselves.

“It’s a space for some of the really difficult feelings to be held when all the adults around them are experiencing these similar feelings. It’s been well received in the community.”

But she added she has only been given access to the centre between 9am and 5pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, hours potentially unsuitable for an after-school group.

A spokesman for KCTMO said: “We have been very happy to make Henry Dickens Court Community Centre available to the arts therapy group at no cost whatsoever.

“The group was, however, unable to use the centre for a short while as we had to change the locks because there was some vandalism; we also had to fix a broken fire door.

“Once this had all been done and the building was safe to use the group was given the keys and have had full access since late Wednesday morning.

“As a resident-led organisation our borough-wide community centres, Kensington and Chelsea Places, play an important role in the North Kensington community.”

The head of KCTMO, Robert Black, stepped down on Friday. He said he would focus on aiding the public inquiry into the 14 June fire that killed at least 80 people and displaced hundreds.

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