Saturday, March 25, 2006

Not only did they listen but they seem to have heard

I am very encouraged by the media’s response to the 7th July Review at the London Assembly on Thursday (at which I spoke) .

The Evening Standard, typically, focused on the blood and gore and pretty much ignored the point of the session, which was to examine ‘communications’ both on the day and afterwards. They were found to be severely lacking on all accounts. The Mail on Sunday is apparently planning a piece this weekend which will no doubt follow their sensationalist lead.

The BBC, Times, Guardian and even the Sun have taken on board the criticisms which were voiced and produced sensible and accurate reports.

It seems to have been worth it and the affects are already rolling in.

Yesterday I received an email from the London Assembly:

‘Did you hear the piece on the PM programme last night (Radio 4)? I
thought it was really good - it's on their website, and it starts just
after 5.33pm if you want to have a listen. There's been loads of press
coverage this morning as well, which we're generally very pleased with -
they seem to have picked up a lot of the messages and points that you
all wanted to get across, and reflected the tone and purpose of the
meeting pretty well I think.

Everyone here is saying how affected they were by hearing what everyone
had to say. Myself, I was amazed by what you all did. It can't have
been at all easy, but it was really very powerful stuff, and people are
already sitting up and listening to what you said. Did Rachel tell you
about the call I got from the Metropolitan Police, saying they had
already identified five things they were going to put into place
straight away on the basis of the points made at the meeting? (When
they tell me what these mysterious things are, I'll let you know!).
Transport for London have called us this morning as well, saying they
thought it was a really useful meeting, and they are looking forward to
getting the transcript and going through all the points that were
raised. ‘


Today I received 3 letters. The first from the 7th July Support Centre:

‘We wanted to write to you about yesterday’s public hearing at the London Assembly. We realise this was an important opportunity for you to share your experiences, and understand that it took a lot of courage to take part. There were a large number of issues raised, of which we were already aware, which will provide valuable feedback for the London Assembly’s report. Some of the issues were around the support available to those involved in the incidents.

The bombings on the 7th of July were a unique set of events that had a huge impact on London, the nation and across the globe. It has been a steep learning curve for all agencies involved, including the 7th July Assistance Centre, and we have taken on board all of the issues raised. As I am sure you are aware, a number of these issues (such as passing on personal details from the Police to the Centre) were out of our control.

We would of course be very happy to discuss any problems around support, past or present, as it is very important that we can work together to learn from these experiences for future support’

The above letter was dated Thursday 24th March and arrived today (25th March). Slightly, irritatingly arse covering, ‘it’s not our fault’ being the general message. However it is still appreciated.

The second and third were identical (why 2?!) and were from Tessa Jowell. There is a somewhat coincidental mystery to these ones. They were dated Wednesday 22nd March, yet also arrived today. Apparently written before the meeting on Thursday, and without any reference to it, but in my opinion clearly as a consequence of it.

It is 8 months late in it’s coming, but it is here all the same. The Herculean effort of everyone who spoke on Thursday is beginning to pay off.

Here are some excerpts:

‘I am writing to you as the Minister with responsibility for the aftercare of those involved in disasters – whether that is through loss of a loved one, physical injury or trauma. As you might know, with Westminster Council, my Department jointly provides funding for the 7 July Assistance Centre……….I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy for you and for all those who were caught up in the attacks on 7 July. The events on that day lead to the loss of 52 innocent lives, and resulted in physical injury for hundreds of people. A greater number again witnessed or were directly involved in the incidents, and bear less visible scars from that day. ‘

She goes on to say that she is setting up meetings with survivors. She says that ‘the meetings will include officials from my Department as well as representatives from the Metropolitan Police. Members of staff from the 7 July Assistance Centre have also kindly agreed to be present.’

‘Kindly’?! Isn’t that their job? I haven’t missed, either, the lack of assurance that she herself will be present, only ‘officials’ from her Department. More arse covering. She’d better be.

That aside, I am pleased. It has been sent to everyone with whom the 7th July Centre is in touch. This will mean that many who were there will not have been invited, but it is still a bloody good result. I feel proud of us all and glad that they have finally heard us.

I am off to follow doctors’ orders and ‘chill out’.