Last year five terrorist attacks took place across the UK leaving 36 people dead, 390 physically injured and countless others affected emotionally, physically and financially. Victim Support had contact with over 1,400 people, offering information and specialist support. From this experience, and from the stories of survivors, we call for clearer access and to ensure that no-one goes without the support they need.
Victim services in England and Wales are commissioned by Police and Crime Commissioners, and there is a requirement under the Victims Code of Practice for victims affected by terrorist incidents to be able to access these services. However, as there are different service providers across England and Wales, in the event of an incident where victims are from all parts of the country, our research with survivors demonstrates that it is not always clear how survivors should access support or who they should contact.
Following the Westminster attack, one year ago today, Victim Support extended it’s free confidential supportline to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – a service funded largely from charitable donations. Many people who sought our support were dealing with the psychological effects and were struggling to cope, having difficulty sleeping, experiencing flashbacks and feared being alone. That’s why we took the decision to be there for victims – anytime of the day or night.
All of those involved in responding to these attacks – emergency services and local authorities through to voluntary organisations and charities must continue to improve how we work together. We need to ensure that all those seeking help have access to all the information they need from the start, and can access support for as long as they need it, no matter where they live.
We are calling for all agencies involved to recognise that in the case of terrorist incidents, it is not only those injured and the families of the bereaved that are affected, but also those who witnessed these attacks. From people who saw the Westminster attack unfold from buses crossing the bridge, to those hiding in restaurants and bars as the terrorists at London Bridge carried out their brutal attacks. All agencies involved in assisting in such incidents must therefore treat witnesses as survivors and ensure they have access to adequate support services.
Today is a day to remember all those impacted by the devastating and life-changing incidents of last year. Whilst we hope that such incidents never happen again, we must listen and learn to ensure that can respond faster, respond better and respond to all those who need support.