Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Where does the buck stop??

I have taken up my gripe with the 7th July Assistance Centre as I’m afraid their letter really wound me up.

This was my response…….

'Dear (it was addressed to the person who had written to me),

I too spoke at the London Assembly. It was a tough day but extremely
worthwhile. It felt, for me, like the first time anyone was really
listening to us.

There were obviously many issues which were raised on Thursday which
covered a variety of government services. We have heard that the Police
are planning to implement some points immediately having heard our
testimony. We have also received a letter from Tessa Jowell (as you
know) inviting us to a meeting with her department and the Metropolitan
Police. We have been told that Transport for London found Thursday
extremely useful and are going to report back with any changes which
they may implement.

All of these reactions have been positive and proactive and have made
all who spoke feel that it was a worthwhile experience.

I am afraid that the only response to the day which I found rather
underwhelming was the one from yourself. It seemed to be somewhat
defensive in its tone, the message which came across was that you
already knew about the shortcomings and the lack of police list was not
your fault. This may well be the case, however it is avoiding the very
purpose of the review committee which was to identify learnings which
could be taken on board having heard the testimonies on the day.

I would be very happy to come and meet with you, however,I feel that what I said on the day was pretty self explanatory.
I do feel that a more proactive way forward would be for the 7 July
Support Centre to propose changes which they are going to implement as
a result of the testimonies, you could then issue these in draft form to everyone with whom you are in touch and ask for feedback. Once you have collated the feedback we could then meet and discuss these ideas rather than going over old ground which is all we would be doing if we met now.

I would also like to add that it seems only 3 of us from Kings Cross
who spoke on the day have received the letter from yourself, and many
people (who have been regularly in touch with the centre) have not
received the letter from Tessa Jowell.

I am afraid that none of this fills me with much confidence that
learnings are being taken on board.

I look forward to hearing from you.'

She replied thus……

‘Thank you for your email. (another name here) is the project manager on the 7 July Assistance Centre and he would be very happy if you wanted to get in touch with direct - I have copied him in.

Best wishes,’

Well, she hadn’t copied him in. Oh the efficiency……It seemed to me to be yet more buck passing. Where does it stop? Eventually she managed it & today I received this……….

'Dear Holly

I am writing in response to your e-mail to (original person’s name here) regarding your Witness Report at the London Assembly Meetings last Thursday, which I found both profound and upsetting.

Firstly, please let me explain that we are a registered charity, which was requested to provide long term support for the survivors and bereaved following the tragic incidents of 7 July 2005, due to our experience of supporting people through loss and disaster, by Westminster City Council and DCMS.

We took over the management of the 7 July Assistance Centre on 1st November from Westminster City Council, who until then, were running the Centre with the support of volunteers and a manager, who all worked very hard to meet the needs of people who were traumatised and in need of immediate support.

My team and I have notified people who are able to implement change that includes the issues mentioned by you and others at the London Assembly Meeting, such as the name of the initial Centre, support group meetings on the 17th floor and training of counsellors at the Centre.

There is also the more complicated issue of the transfer of details of survivors and others, which were taken by the previous management at the Family Assistance Centre, but were unable to be transferred to the 7 July Assistance Centre due to data protection. This issue is being addressed with DCMS, but is yet to be resolved. We still do not have details of those who have not been in contact with us, or those who have decided not to give us their details for whatever reason.

Although some of our funding is from Government, we remain independent and somewhat powerless to influence all the changes you mentioned, but I can assure you that we are monitoring and evaluating our service provision with Westminster City Council, DCMS and other agencies, to enable the changes that you and others feel must be made for the future.

I was saddened by the fact that many people volunteered to help at the Family Assistance Centre, but were partially or not acknowledged, during last Thursday's meeting, for their excellent work . Some of them continue to offer their services at 7 July Assistance Centre, but are feeling disillusioned following the meetings. However, I know that we have and will continue to help many people affected by the incidents.

I would be happy to meet with you if you would like to discuss this further, meanwhile I can assure you that we are constantly learning from the many people to whom we offer professional support.


Now I feel guilty. I know that many many people have received fantastic help and advice from the support centre, but personally I haven’t. The testimonies on Thursday were personal so I told my story. It is unfortunate that the people who chose to spoke all had negative things to say about the support centre as I am sure that others who have given private testimonies will be full of praise. I feel terrible at the thought of volunteers feeling disheartened and hurt. My complaints have never been personal; my gripe is with the people in charge.

I think this is where it all begins to crumble. They are an independent charity who receive SOME funding from the government. So who is responsible? Why did the government feel that it was enough to ask a charity to look after us and bung them a bit of cash. It is just not good enough.

Although this letter makes me feel bad, it has also pinpointed the problem for me. The reason there is so much buck passing going on is because it IS no-one’s fault. There is no chain of command, no-body is ultimately responsible. The DCMS, Westminster Council and the Assistance Centre are muddling along together. Everybody seems to be ‘powerless’!

So where does the buck stop?.....Tessa?