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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

More than 600 people have sought help following UK terror attacks

Survivors seeking treatment for trauma from terrorism decades after the event

The aftermath of the March 22 terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge in London.  REUTERS/Toby Melville
The aftermath of the March 22 terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge in London. REUTERS/Toby Melville

A charity has warned of the long-term health implications caused by terrorism as it revealed it was helping more than 600 people affected by a string of deadly attacks in Britain during 2017.

The government-funded Survivors’ Assistance Network (SAN) is the country’s only dedicated body dealing with the impact of terrorist attacks on British-based victims, with the majority requiring help to deal with trauma and psychological problems.

The warning follows criticism of the government’s efforts to help those affected by major terrorist events following a sharp rise in attacks in Britain and across Europe.

Researchers warned before the latest spate of attacks, mainly by homegrown British militants, that current policies to help survivors “fell short” of what was needed. While the relatives of those killed received high-quality care, hundreds of witnesses or injured survivors were “often falling through gaps in the system”, according to a 2016 report by the charity Victim Support.

Parts of the social care and health system did not recognise the unique needs of those affected by terrorism, said officials. “We get a lot of people who have had not quite the right intervention offered, or not at the right time,” said Terry O’Hara, project manager for SAN.

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The scale of the problem is often hidden with some survivors not seeking help for decades, according to the charities. Officials at SAN said they were still helping people caught up in the car bombing outside London’s upmarket Harrods department store in 1983. The attack by militants seeking a united Ireland independent from the United Kingdom left six people dead and dozens injured.

A British serviceman posted in Aden – where British rule ended only in 1967 after an insurgency – had been in contact with the group in recent years after because of troubling decades-old experiences while posted in the former British colony.

The group is part of a charitable foundation set up by the parents of a 12-year-old boy, Tim Parry, one of two children killed in a 1993 bombing by Irish militants. The group had predominantly worked with Irish groups – bringing together victims and former militants – until the nature of modern terrorism changed with the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and a series of co-ordinated bomb blasts on the London transport network in 2005.

It first helped with British survivors and bereaved relatives of those killed in terrorist attacks in Tunisia in 2015, with 30 of the 38 killed from Britain, but faces a continual struggle to justify government funding.

“They [the government] need lots of statistics and evidence that survivors’ work is worth funding,” said Colin Parry, one of the founders. “It’s not terribly easy to provide metrics for all of this work – it’s dealing with people who have had a shattering experience.”

Two people from SAN went to the home of Travis Frain, a survivor of the Westminster Bridge attack and now a trustee of the foundation, and tailored a support package for him. “It felt to me like they were only ones who had experience of this – and knew what they were doing,” said Mr Frain.

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