PUBLIC SECT0R: Three charities unite for US attacks bereavement line

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

information officer.

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.

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