Social workers drafted in to support Grenfell Tower survivors

Officials working on the emergency response effort say social workers are among 130 key workers providing extra support

Tributes of flowers and messages placed near to Grenfell Tower in west London Picture credit: Ray Tang/Rex Features

Social workers have been drafted in to provide extra support to survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Officials working on the emergency response to the tragedy said every Grenfell resident had been allocated a key worker to provide “wrap around care” and help them access vital housing, financial and counselling support.

The 130 key workers on site include social workers who have been drafted in from other councils. Writing on Twitter, Simon Galczynski, Hackney council’s director of adult services, paid tribute to the efforts of his staff.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, told Community Care the council had sent two adults’ social workers and two children’s social workers to aid the response after councils across London received an appeal for help on Sunday.

He said: “Hackney Council was one of the first to respond, with some of our social workers arriving by Sunday afternoon, to be a point of contact for those in need of help. Hackney has sent staff to Kensington from across many departments including Adult Social Care, Children’s Social Care and Housing Needs support.

“Today one of our social workers is helping distribute Oyster Cards, provided by Kensington & Chelsea, to a number of families. This is just one small example of how Hackney is supporting the London wide effort, from both councils and ordinary Londoners, in supporting the residents of Grenfell Tower.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Grenfell response team said: “The Grenfell Fire Response Team has been set up to support residents affected by the fire. This includes London-wide local and regional government, central government, British Red Cross, Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade.

“Residents of Grenfell Tower have been all allocated a key worker. These include social workers. One hundred and 30 key workers are supporting people affected. The key worker provides a range of wrap around care, support and advice including ensuring people and families affected have access to critical services and entitlements such as housing, finance, counselling, schooling and bereavement.”

The disaster left at least 79 people dead. The government has faced fierce anger from survivors and victims’ families over the official response. Yesterday the prime minister, Theresa May, apologised for a “failure of the state” and said the early response “was not good enough”. May pledged to rehouse survivors within three weeks and ordered an independent inquiry into the disaster.

In a statement issued last week, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW)  called on its members to donate to one of the official survivor funds to help support the families affected.

“Families, friends, neighbours and strangers have stood side by side in this terrible event bringing a sense of community unity and compassion in such horrific circumstances,” the association said.

“Public sector workers including the ambulance crews, health staff, police, fire brigade, housing workers and social workers (to name just a few) have played an important role in supporting those in crisis, trauma and in need.

“The partnership of working alongside the community, faith based organisations and all those offering humanity, kindness, generosity and a listening ear symbolises all that is good in such an unbelievable tragedy.”

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12 Responses to Social workers drafted in to support Grenfell Tower survivors

  1. Rosaline June 22, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    There is a need for all local authorities to be part of the support plans to help these families begin the journey of rebuilding their lives.

  2. Alana June 22, 2017 at 10:58 pm #

    This is great and I’m glad to see social workers being respected… but four social workers for the 68 people alive and not in hospital? That is a tonne of paperwork even with the 130 other support workers around to help carry out the work!

    • Jonathan July 13, 2017 at 6:09 am #

      No. we need alot LESS social workers (less state in general) and more of what actually happened which was normal people coming out onto the street to look after their own problems.

  3. Amanda June 23, 2017 at 10:06 am #

    @Alana There are 4 social workers from Hackney – there are others from elsewhere. My LA has sent 3 and it is not the only one. There are also those from K&C

  4. Peter Feldon June 23, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    Also there are social care managers from most London Boroughs who are helping to staff the emergency response team.

  5. John Bradfield June 23, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

    GRENFELL TOWER – EMPOWER THE SURVIVORS

    In 1990, I gave up teaching social work, to pioneer an empowering approach to the immediate impacts of devastating bereavements. That meant having to research relevant law, about which I knew close to nothing, despite having worked in the NHS with those who were dying and newly bereaved. The latter were often depressed and less frequently, struggling with suicidal urges.

    I realised well before 1990, that despite much of my paid work being driven by crisis and survival psychology, I shared the same major blind spot with almost all other health and welfare staff, i.e. I did not give thought to the range of options which exist, in the first hours and days after devastating bereavements and who has, or can take, legal control over what happens.

    Since that time and having examined relevant law, I have provided free advice, information and support on a voluntary basis. Often, I ask very simple questions of those enquiring about their legal rights and desperate to gain control, over events which feel totally out of control and overwhelming.

    These are two of the most basic questions to ask:-

    “What sensitive and practical things would you do today and in the coming days, to meet your needs and the needs of relatives, friends and anyone else, if we lived in a world where no-one had ever died and there were no laws saying what things we must do and when we must do them?”

    “Where and when would you do those things and who if anyone, would you involve?”

    After time has been given to discuss and think through those questions, I have never yet been informed of a tentative plan which would be illegal.

    What matters psychologically, is helping them find their own creative solutions to the immediate impacts of their devastating grief.

    Quick progress is made when they feel they have control and are not answerable to or likely to be intimidated by officials, e.g. no need for exaggerated fears, such as flashing blue lights or helicopters hovering overhead with search lights and loud speakers.

    Progress should be relatively straightforward with natural deaths but often isn’t. It can be exceptionally tricky with disasters, if having to deal with authoritarian officials, such as coroner Dr. Knapman, who shockingly amputated the hands from 21 of those who died in the Marchioness disaster. Ways are needed to stop very abruptly, such abuses of power. Those must carry major punishments, to protect the integrity of emergency approaches, to safeguarding the emotional and social wellbeing of survivors. He must have known that at the very least, doctors must do no harm. That includes emotional harm to the living.

    Providing sound information and support can also be essential, especially if there is fear of intrusion by public officials, claiming real or imaginary powers. It is all too common to find that health and welfare staff, especially those dealing with crisis situations connected with bereavements, do not know what is and isn’t lawful and where their powers if any, start and finish.

    They cannot provide short term and intensive encouragement and support for survivors, if there is fear that the law may be broken. That fear will exist if information provided to frontline staff, is false and misleading, on what is and is not possible. More often than not, routines from the past determine what paid staff will and will not do. Be wary of anyone who says, “It has always been done this way”. They are unlikely to know how much is based on lore rather than law and their understanding of applied psychology may be close to zero, in terms of what may help, hinder and harm.

    A company which claims to provide websites for 4,500 GP surgeries with 20 million readers each month, was displaying false information about what must be done immediately after deaths. When pointed out, it was quickly removed. However, it has been replaced with advice to contact an organisation which explicitly states that its information, (a) should not be relied upon, (b) may not be of an adequate quality and (c) may not be fit for any particular purpose. The same organisation also states that it cannot give an assurance, that it will correct any errors in that information.

    What is shocking, is that with the many thousands of NHS staff relying on the information previously displayed by the website company, no doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, social worker or other person appeared to realise, that it was false and how it could hinder and harm rather than help.

    It has been all the more shocking since the 1st August 2016, when all NHS and publicly funded adult care services have been legally required to provide sound information and to do so in ways which are easy to understand by service users, regardless of their intellectual and sensory abilities.

    It is believed by NHS England that this relatively new legal duty will result in a “dramatic improvement” in health and social care services. That we must all strive to achieve. In the meantime, in terms of the immediate impacts of bereavements, that promise will not be realised without a “dramatic” rethink, about how we routinely respond to personal crises, through to major disasters.

    The question now posed by the range of emotional, social and community consequences of the horrendous fire in the Grenfell Tower, is whether NHS and welfare staff know how to comply with that legal duty on the provision of sound information?

    For that to be possible, they must know what range of lawful options are open to survivors of that disaster. They must also know how to discover unmet psychological needs and how to meet those needs in imaginative and sensitive ways.

    I will be more than willing to read any information which health and welfare staff are providing to survivors and others, who are deeply affected. It is vital to make sure they are not being mislead or kept in the dark about their full range of options, for protecting their own emotional wellbeing and that of others, especially young children.

    I cannot respond to other very important aspects of advice work, such as the law on housing and social security benefits. I can only make time to help with a very narrow aspect of existing law and the ways in which that could be easily and radically improved, to provide emergency help in disasters and other crises, e.g. there has long been a need to impose a legal duty on the police and coroners, to give top priority to protecting and promoting the emotional wellbeing of survivors, without compromising evidence of any potential crimes.

    Public servants do have an explicit or implied legal duty to protect the public interest but that is so imprecise, that it is difficult if not impossible to measure. We can be absolutely sure, that it isn’t achieved, if survivors are unnecessarily frustrated and tormented, by the way investigations are conducted. Those may range from the insensitive to the unjustified withholding of information. Survivors may be desperate to understand and influence day-to-day investigations and other events and participate in those whenever possible. Social workers with experience in crisis and community work may have much to offer.

    Police, coroners, social workers and others should have as their first question, “What can we do immediately and if necessary, intensively, to enable survivors to do what they need to do right now, so that everything reasonably practical and lawful is done, to prevent avoidable harm to their short, medium and long-term emotional wellbeing and continuity of close relationships?”

    A second question is, “At the very least we must do no avoidable harm but how can that be achieved?”

    Answers to these last two questions will for many staff, call for creative thinking, courage, tenacity, confidence about what needs to be done and how and crucially, strong support from their employers, politicians at all levels and the news media.

    Disasters and other crises are at risk of being compounded, if frontline staff doing their best to help, feel unsupported, hindered and vulnerable to unjustified criticisms.

    John Bradfield CQSW DASS FETC MA.
    Former Medical, Psychiatric & Child Care Social Worker & Tutor.
    Campaigner and Writer on Bereavement Issues, Related Law & Practice.
    Former Mental Health Campaigner & MH Review Tribunal Representative.

  6. Josephine June 23, 2017 at 9:46 pm #

    I think a small number of LA workers including social workers are being sent from each borough. I know myself and a few other social workers in my borough are on standby and housing officers have already been.

  7. Lucy lou June 25, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

    Why is KCC not paying for their own additional social workers with all the money they have rather than using the resources of other poorer boroughs?

    • Subuhi June 27, 2017 at 9:40 am #

      I totally agree Lucy ! I have been asked to be on stand by from another Borough, on top of my current case load. Yet I have been looking for new opportunities, despite my expertise and additional qualifications, its been months and there is nothing out there !

      • Zoe June 28, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

        Subuhi
        Good Social Workers are highly sought after. If you don’t feel valued then have a look at our job site. If you still can’t find anything then approach an LA and name your price, I’m sure they’ll be flexible – https://jobs.communitycare.co.uk/jobs/
        Good luck and well done for everything you do.

  8. Janet June 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

    I recall that many years ago that there was a fire in our borough and people from the nearby houses and flats had to be evacuated. Within an hour or so of the fire brigade being called, a call came from the director of SS for each social work team in adults and children section to send 1 social worker to the area to assist with evacuation etc.
    My colleague was responsible for getting one of the local care homes to give up their day room to elderly residents and those with young children and the Red Cross provided residents with drinks/food. All this was achieved within 2- 3 hours via the borough’s emergency plan. Why did it take K & C so long to respond?

  9. Nigel June 28, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

    What Disaster Planning Arrangements did KCC have. Why were social workers (and many other couincil staff) not beginning to respond by the afternoon of the disaster and certainly by the following day. Perhaps the KCC did more sooner than was apparent from media reports but there was an impression that ordinary people and the non state sector ( faith, community, charity) organisations responded much faster.