Newcastle 7/7 Survivor Fights For Support Service

27 March 2013, 05:00

A North East survivor of the 7/7 terrorist attack's fighting to save a service that helps survivors of terrorism

38 year old Lisa French has sent a letter to the Government asking for them to save Survivors of Terrorism

The service offers specialist counselling and support to victims of terrorist attacks - but they've run out of funding and will close at the end of this month.

The organisation itself is managed by BBS - Brent Bereavement Services, a registered charity established in February 1987, to provide support for bereaved individuals and groups in the borough of Brent in North West London.

In the wake of the attack on 7/7 they were used as a service for families who lost a relative in the bombings and their services were spread further to help the survivors who were showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the attack.

They were funded by the Government as the 'July The 7th Centre' which was specific to helping 7/7 families - the government funding was taken away and that service was turned into the 'Survivors of Terrorism' organisation, which was widened to all UK citizens that had been the victim of terrorist attacks anywhere in the world.

They are a one of a kind service in England.

Here Lisa speaks to Capital FM's reporter Anna Harding about the service and why she's fighting for it to stay open

Lisa's Letter To The Prime Minister In Full

Dear Mr Cameron, 

Next time a victim stands up, we should stand up along side them.

As a survivor of the July 7th Bombings, last night I received very distressing news. This distressing news did not come as a shock, but leaves me and others in turmoil, and unsupported.

July 7th Centre was created in 2005 to support survivors and bereaved families following that dreadful day. Its scope was widened to include people hurt in other atrocities, yet after 4 and a half years, funding for the Centre came to an end, and Survivors of Terrorism was created, albeit on a smaller scale.

On the day you became prime minister, I wrote to you Mr Cameron, asking if you would continue to fund Survivors of Terrorism, I am still awaiting a response from you. My email went unanswered.

Today, I have my response, of sorts. So this letter will not be sent to you directly as I know it will not be responded to. The only way for you to hear my voice, is to publish this open letter online, and share it with broadcasters and media contacts, in the hope I can get your attention via the media to whom your door is open.

Since that time, funding has been reduced resulting in the specialised counselling, workshops and programmes which were previously offered coming to an end. In the last year the service has existed only to 'sign post' those in need of help to an overburdened NHS and social services, who are facing their own cuts.

Not only are these services overburdened, they are also lacking in the specialist skills and experience required to support such a special and unique group of people. They do not provide an emotionally safe place for survivors to come together and support and empower each other. People who have been through an extreme trauma such as surviving an act of terrorism need experienced trauma psychologists to support them. I have not been able to find such support via NHS. Such support is available privately, at a cost of approx. £150 per hour. A course of CBT from such an experienced trauma practitioner adequate enough to support a survivor of terrorism usually takes around 26 hours - that's almost £4000.

As a witness called to the inquests, I needed this support again. Another £4000 of counselling to enable me to take the stand, to bear witness. I had no choice in being a witness, just as I had no choice when I was injured on July 7th 2005. This cost was not supported by the government; I had to find the funding for this myself.

The reasons given for the withdrawal of services and funding is that demand has reduced. The truth is not that demand has not reduced, but has been 'managed down' by the lack of services offered. If a victim knows there is no help and support, they will not ask, often they are not well enough to 'demand' anything. Their silent cries for support and help go un-noticed, until they are beyond crisis. Our needs have not gone away, they have changed and adapted, as we survivors and bereaved families have adapted.

Our needs have not gone away - our support has. If services workshops etc. had been available and promoted in recent years, people would have still signed up to use those services, but they have not been available for some time. We may be a small group of people but we have very unique needs, and Survivors of Terrorism has been able to help us in the unique way we have needed. Funding for the service requires only approx. £60,000 - approx. £75 per survivor / bereaved family per year to keep the service going, and to meet our unique needs which cannot be met elsewhere. I am concerned that 'full PTSD' can take 10 - 15 years to develop.

I am concerned that difficult life events can trigger the onset of symptoms, or the re-emergence of once managed symptoms. None of us know what is round the corner, or if something may cause us a setback in our recovery. PTSD does not go away completely. With support, we learn to manage some of our symptoms. We learn ways of avoiding the things which bring on some of our symptoms. We all have to live with the after effects of that day for the rest of our lives. We were all altered and changed that day, and we continue to learn to adjust. Help and support from Survivors of Terrorism has helped us learn to adjust, but it is a life long journey. I am very concerned that people impacted by future events overseas will have no support at all.

I am very concerned that should we see another day as we did 7 and half years ago, the service will have to be built up from nothing again. I mean no disrespect to the service thinking back to the initial teething troubles the service encountered in the early days as a result from having to mobilise the service very quickly. Under the circumstances they did a great job. But I would not want to see those teething troubles repeated in a new service, created reactively in the future.

I do hope all the learning and professional skills developed by the team will not be lost entirely, but I fear they will. I would like to personally thank Paulo and Jo and the rest of the team who have been of great support to us all over the last 7 years. They have made such an incredible difference to us over the last seven years.

Five years ago, I was lucky enough to discover the Foundation For Peace in Warrington - which has made such a huge difference for me. The Foundation was created by the parents of the two boys killed in Warrington 20 years ago. Today it is 20 years since the Parry's had to turn off their sons life support system; and today, you have chosen to turn off ours. The services they provide are very different to those Survivors of Terrorism have been able to provide, but they do understand our journey and experiences. They are unable to provide counselling or medical assistance, their funding, also at risk, does not stretch that far - they are not a medical organisation.

I recognise that just as the distance of me in the North hindered me receiving direct support from Survivors of terrorism being London based; the location of The Foundation for Peace in Warrington may also hinder many London based people being able to take part as much as they would like. Travel for many of us, is still a very traumatic experience. Last week, 20 years after the Warrington bombings, the Foundation for Peace met survivors and witnesses for whom it had taken 20 years to be ready to revisit Warrington, they have carried their burden for 20 long years. They still carry that burden today.

At the Foundation for Peace I have met people impacted by the Irish troubles - some lost loved ones before I was born. I am 38 next week. If our needs went away, they would not be attending the Foundation for Peace now. Many waited 20 years until the Foundation was created, before they received any help at all. Last week, The Foundation for Peace launched a paper 'The Cost of Peace.' At the conference, one of the speakers said Next time a victim stands up; we should stand up alongside them.

Mr Cameron - will you stand up alongside us? Or will you wait, for 2 years, until the 10th anniversary, when no doubt your government will wish to hold an anniversary event to be seen to stand alongside us, at the 10th anniversary?

No doubt a large event will be held, and many politicians and dignitaries will be invited, to show their respect. Today there is no respect for us.

Today I plead with you, not only for my sanity, but also for possibly my life, and the lives of others, without your support, we will reach crisis. We fought for our lives seven years ago; we should not have to fight for your support today. Today, I plead with you Mr Cameron to change your mind, to consider reinstating £75 per person to provide continued support for a unique group of people, injured through no fault of their own.

Isn't that the very least we deserve? Mr Cameron, I ask you, Will you stand along side us, or continue to turn your back on us?

Lisa French
Survivor of Tavistock Square.

 

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