The Government has taken on charity sector help to run its helpline
for Britons bereaved by the US terror attacks.
The Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Department for Culture, Media
and Sport and charities British Red Cross, Victim Support and Cruse
Bereavement Care teamed up within hours of the 11 September
'As far as I know, it's unprecedented for voluntary organisations such
as these to have worked together and set up a single phoneline. But this
is an unprecedented disaster,' said Vickie Sheriff, DCMS senior
Sheriff said the line had had a 'slow start' since its launch and a PR
push was essential.
A public awareness drive has now begun, with culture secretary Tessa
Jowell - who Prime Minister Tony Blair has assigned to the issue of
helping Britons bereaved by the tragedy - undertaking a round of media
interviews with the national and regional broadcast media.
It is estimated that 200 Britons lost their lives in the attacks. Blair
joined bereaved relatives and friends at a special ceremony in New York
last week. The Government is to cover all phoneline costs.
'This is an exceptional disaster,' said Victim Support head of media and
PR Paul Fawcett. 'It takes our own work to another dimension.'
A call centre has been set up at the British Red Cross's offices in
London and is manned round-the-clock by at least 12 staff, who provide
'emotional and practical help', said British Red Cross PR head Beryl
The three charities' PR teams have been lobbying to secure free
advertising space and ways of raising awareness of the phoneline
The Red Cross is in talks with its corporate partners to see how it
could use them to raise awareness of the phoneline.
The DCMS website's opening page now defaults to an information bulletin
on counselling services for those affected by the disaster.
A small group of Cruse bereavement counsellors has remained in New York
this week to continue comforting relatives of those Britons killed.
Around seven of a ten-strong Cruse team have returned to Britain.