Statement from Refuge Support Group: Forbury Gardens Public Inquest April 2024.

The thoughts and prayers of the staff and trustees at Refugee Support Group are with the family, friends and colleagues of James Furlong, Joseph Ritchie–Bennett and David Wails. 

The inquests arising from events in Forbury Gardens of 20 June 2020 have highlighted a systemic failure by statutory agencies in the management and the treatment of KS.  

RSG recognised KS was a troubled and vulnerable individual and tried for 4 years prior to events in Forbury Gardens, to get him the appropriate care and support he needed.  We communicated with various agencies our concerns that unless KS received a comprehensive mental health support programme, there was potential for a serious incident similar to the attack and deaths at the Fishmongers Hall on London Bridge in Nov 2019. 

Ultimately, we were unsuccessful in our approach.  RSG was not heard, our concerns were not acted on, or they were dismissed.  RSG must now examine what more we could have done.  It is vital that we do this within a wider forum, and that all agencies digest the lessons learned highlighted by this inquest and establish better and robust interagency coordination, cooperation, procedures and confidential information sharing protocols. 

It is timely and pertinent to further impress that these lessons are applied to the immediate context of the accommodation and support processes around the housing and care of asylum seekers.  Refugee charities across the country face many barriers and challenges in communicating safeguarding, mental health, health and other humanitarian concerns on behalf of asylum seekers, especially with the private sector contracted by the Home Office. 

We must work together to avoid the ongoing potential for a further tragedy, as happened in a Glasgow Hotel only a week after Forbury Gardens.

End.

Nick Harborne, CEO interview with ITV can be viewed here:

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