These are the types of crisis support services that the Crisis Support UK (CS-UK) provides through its trained Crisis Support Officers, or may be able to arrange through signposting and connections with respective partners. A core value of the CS-UK is flexibility, and this is embedded throughout the training programme. This list is designed to be indicative; other roles, in keeping with the concept of the team, will be considered on a needs basis.
Immediate practical support
The response to a major emergency involves formal plans and procedures, especially those relating to the recovery and identification of the deceased, which may be unfamiliar to those people affected and legal jargon can be confusing. Sometimes, agencies focus on those plans and procedures without taking into account the sensitivities and needs of those involved; they can be process focused rather than people focussed.
Crisis Support Officers can offer practical support by acting as an advocate to those people affected, explaining the plans and procedures involved in a major emergency and briefing them on all the different agencies that are involved. They can inform them of their choices and rights from an objective perspective and give them an idea when things are likely to happen.
Practical support can also involve arranging access to telephones, arranging refreshments, arranging transport and practical problem solving.
In the immediate aftermath of a major emergency, people are likely to experience a range of emotions, which can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. A major emergency can change everything for someone – it changes their today, their future and it can re-define their past. Crisis Support Officers can explain that the emotions they are feeling are a normal reaction to a very stressful situation. It is hoped that by offering support in the early stages, the Crisis Support Officers can contribute towards preventing normal psychological responses developing into social or psychological disorders. In some circumstances, it might be appropriate to establish longer-term emotional support systems like self-help groups or signposting to further support.
Emotional support may simply be listening to people, their experiences of the major emergency and their feelings away from the ears and eyes of the public, the media and other people affected. One of the most important roles of the Crisis Support Officer is to simply ‘be there’. Many factors help a person to deal with a traumatic experience. The more personal resources a person has, the more likely they will be to deal with the consequences. These resources could be a caring, supportive family and friends, having a positive outlook, and good physical fitness. People who have limited personal resources may encounter more problems in the aftermath of a major emergency and therefore may be more at risk of developing longer term psychological problems. Crisis Support Officers may be able to help identify people’s circumstances and needs and monitor them so that the appropriate local support may be activated if necessary.
The WCST is not a counselling service. Counselling is often a misconceived term which can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. There is a place for it and counselling can be very valuable. What needs to be distinguished is the difference between practical and emotional support that needs to be provided in the short and medium term, the first few days and weeks, and the type of psychological care that’s required in the longer term.
After a major emergency, there may be a need to establish a telephone support service where callers can seek advice, discuss their reactions and any issues they may have.
A public helpline can provide a one-stop shop for humanitarian assistance, providing access to practical and emotional support, including a listening ear should someone just want to talk about their experiences and feelings.
Bereavement support alongside Police Family Liaison Officers
If a family has someone missing, injured or killed in a major emergency, they may be assigned a Police Family Liaison Officer. The family may require support and assistance with issues, such as stress and trauma, funeral arrangements, financial or legal advice, health or social care services. Crisis Support Officers can work in partnership with FLOs to assist in providing access to these services and co-ordinate the referral of families to more longer-term support. CS-UK has agreed a protocol with member Police forces with regards to this partnership working.