Mind The Gaps

Posted On 20 Dec 2016
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Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

The apparent lack of a widely recognised definition for any given ‘victim’ of terrorism is putting at risk the prospect of survivors receiving the emotional and practical help they so desperately need after being caught up in an attack. That’s according to new research conducted by Victim Support.

While families bereaved by terrorism have automatic access to high quality care through the Government-funded Homicide Service – which, in fact, is delivered by Victim Support – British citizens who survive an attack abroad and suffer either psychological or less serious physical injuries are often “falling through gaps” in the system. Many are left struggling and only receive help after referring themselves.

The new Victim Support report entitled ‘Meeting the Needs of Survivors and Families Bereaved Through Terrorism’ also finds that survivors can struggle to know where to turn for information and help in the days and weeks following a terrorist incident.

A survey of Victim Support caseworkers who have supported (or continue to support) people directly affected by terrorism, as well as interviews and questionnaires with survivors and bereaved families, reveals the significant emotional and psychological effects of terrorism and the shortfalls in provision of care. 93.5% of survivors suffered effects including difficulties in sleeping, intense distress when reminded of the incident, anger, flashbacks and anxiety. 78.8% required emotional and psychological support, including from specialist services, but the waiting times for counselling or therapy via the NHS can feel too long, and deter some from even accessing such support.

While post-traumatic stress disorder is relatively common among those who’ve experienced a traumatic event, it’s true to say that treatment isn’t offered by all NHS Mental Health Trusts in England. Other apparent shortcomings of the current system include financial hardships exacerbated by challenges in claiming compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and a lack of assistance when it comes to dealing with excessive media attention.

In its detailed report, Victim Support makes a series of recommendations based on the findings of its own research with caseworkers, survivors and bereaved families. These also draw on the experiences of individuals and organisations that have a role in providing services to survivors and international examples of what Victim Support believes to be Best Practice.

Those who are ordinarily classified as direct witnesses should be considered and treated as survivors by all agencies, in turn enabling them to access suitable support services. Also, a pathway of support ought to be mapped out and agreed upon by all agencies involved in assisting survivors and a Working Group convened immediately to co-design this pathway.

While there are positive aspects to the current system, such as the support provided by Humanitarian and Survivor Assistance Centres, improvements clearly need to be made. Hopefully, this report will encourage all the agencies involved to work together on ensuring that everyone impacted by such harrowing events receives the absolutely vital assistance they so richly deserve.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.