Social workers at Heathrow airport reveal the unusual issues that face them as they help people stranded between international borders in the first episode of ITV’s Britain’s Busiest Airport: Heathrow
In tonight’s programme, they provide support and signposting for a British man who has no friends or family he can stay with after being deported from Thailand.
Finding safe places
“We see a lot of British nationals ending up here destitute when they return from abroad,” a social worker at Heathrow Travel Care told Community Care. “They are not considered a priority by local authority housing teams and are often not yet eligible for benefits, we need to connect them with homeless outreach teams,” he said.
In addition the team often has to help women fleeing forced marriages or those with mental health problems.
“People with schizophrenia, for example, often travel to escape perceived perpetrators,” said the social worker, who was previously at a local authority.
“They may have made a journey but they are not sure why. They don’t know what to do when they get to the airport,” he said.
Economic changes increasing workload
The social worker, who had previously worked at a local authority, said they were also dealing with more housing issues that were not restricted to airline passengers. Economic difficulties were seeing many people coming to the airport just to find somewhere safe and warm to sleep.
The team of five social workers don’t have caseloads and prefer the one-on-one work to the “red tape” of practising elsewhere, even though there aren’t straightforward ways to support some of the people who need help in an international port.
“We don’t have to go through so many levels of authority. Often, we’re trying to help people find their own resources,” the social worker added.
Britain’s Busiest Airport: Heathrow is on ITV from 9-10pm on Thursday 4th June. If you’re watching it, let us know by tweeting @communitycare.