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Frequently Asked Questions

1.         What is the Crisis Support Team for Essex?

2.         What is a crisis support worker ?

3.         What is a Keyworker ?

4.         Why was the scheme set up?

5.         How is the scheme set up?

6.         What support services can the scheme provide?

7.         Who is the scheme for?


1.What is the Crisis Support Team for Essex?

The Crisis Support Team for Essex is a support service for people affected by  emergencies within Essex, or residents of Essex affected by an emergency that occurs in another area of the UK or abroad.

It is managed and led by Essex County Council in an emergency if activated.


2. What is a Crisis Support Worker?

A crisis support worker is a skilled and trained volunteer, recruited from across Essex County Council and various organisations, that can provide practical and emotional support to people that are affected by emergencies*

*in the early aftermath – first few days and weeks


Practical and emotional information could involve:

  • A listening ear

  • Explaining reactions to crisis and sudden loss

  • Normalising reactions to trauma and loss

  • Sophisticated signposting to resources/services within or outside of an emergency assistance centre

  • Explaining emergency processes and procedures and emergency arrangements associated with the emergency eg Family and Friends Reception Centre

  • Practical problem solving and tasks eg transport, telephoning loved ones

  • Reassurance, and providing company whilst people are waiting for news/services – ‘being there’

  • Assisting with form filling

  • Distributing leaflets on Coping with Crisis and other public information

  • Publicising support and information available through the Crisis Support Team

  • Advocacy

  • Psychological first aid

Crisis Support Workers do not go to the scene of an emergency, take any part in rescue operations or provide any trauma first aid.


3. Why was the scheme set up?

In the aftermath of any emergency, there is enormous distress for survivors, family and friends of those involved, the wider community, and the responders.

The experiences of those people in the aftermath can significantly influence how they cope with the consequences of the emergency and how quickly a community is restored to a sense of normality.

An emergency can occur anytime, anyplace and affect anyone. The tragic incidents that have occurred in the UK and internationally, demonstrate that emergencies can strike anywhere.  Like any other County, Essex has its risks; it is a big County, with over 1 million residents and the potential for an emergency is always present.

As a nation, we are becoming increasingly aware that everyday stress can influence our lives, perhaps affecting our relationships, our health, our work, our sense of worth, and ultimately our quality of life.  When this stress is the type experienced in a major incident or emergency, the effects can be massive and if lots of people are affected, it can affect the whole community, in the short term and long term.  Besides the immediate alleviation of the physical and emotional effects of suffering in an emergency, it is accepted that appropriate support at an early stage can help mitigate the impact of longer-term personal trauma and therefore, potentially minimise future dependency on health and mental health services. It is our aim in Essex to utilise all available expertise to help people to develop strategies to cope with such an extreme situation and build more resilient communities. It is important to offer compassion and humanity.


4. How is the Crisis Support Team for Essex set up?

It is led by Essex County Council’s Social Care functions.  The scheme is co-ordinated by a core team of people and can be delivered by four Crisis Support Local Support Teams.  These teams comprise Crisis Support Workers and Keyworkers with a different skills mix who are competent to deliver a range of support services, based in the following four areas of Essex:

  • MID - Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon

  • SOUTH - Basildon, Castle Point, Rochford

  • EAST - Colchester and Tendring

  • WEST - Brentwood, Epping Forest, Harlow and Uttlesford

The Crisis Support Team for Essex (CSTE):

  1. Provides co-ordination to: co-ordinate the crisis support response to those affected by an emergency; offer advice & guidance in terms of social & psychological effects of emergencies; & identify & promote good practice & joint working across the public sector, private sector & voluntary agencies.

  2. Provides a voluntary system of trained individuals with diverse competencies & skills who are able to offer various levels of crisis support, social care and wider humanitarian assistance to people affected by an emergency, including suitable individuals who can work in partnership with Police Family Liaison Officers.

  3. Offers specialist training to ensure diversity of skills & competencies among members of the CSTE.

  4. Establishes & maintains links with academic & professional groups to access specialist services; keeps up to date with local & national developments in crisis support work, keyworkers, and wider humanitarian assistance & establishes & maintains links with neighbouring Counties, offering support services on a mutual aid basis if necessary.


5. What support services can the scheme provide?

The most immediate needs of the survivors, the families, and the bereaved are for comfort, support and fundamentally and crucially information, as well as access to their loved ones. They will be desperate to know what has happened, where to go, who to contact; they may want assistance with understanding the choices and decisions which they must make; they may want to get as close to what happened at the site of the emergency. They should be treated with respect and dignity and given every opportunity and assistance to take control for themselves and to make personal choices. This is what the CSTE is based upon and these are the types of support services that it could deliver.


Immediate practical support

The response to a major incident or emergency involves formal plans and procedures, especially those relating to the recovery and identification of the deceased, which may be unfamiliar to those people affected and legal jargon can be confusing. Sometimes, agencies focus on those plans and procedures without taking into account the sensitivities and needs of those involved; they can be process focused rather than people focussed which can prolong the grief and agony that they’ll experience. Some professionals call this secondary trauma.

Crisis Support Workers and Keyworkers can offer practical support by acting as an advocate to those people affected, explaining the plans and procedures involved in an emergency and briefing them on all the different agencies that are involved. They can provide information which enables people to be made aware of their choices and rights from an objective perspective and give them an idea when things are likely to happen.

Practical support can also involve arranging access to telephones, arranging refreshments; arranging transport and practical problem solving.

Anything, however small, that can make the whole process of coming to terms with such an emergency, process what has happened, offer compassion and humanity, is the main objective.

Emotional support

In the immediate aftermath of an emergency, people are likely to experience a range of emotions, which can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. An emergency can change everything for someone – it changes their today, their future and it can re-define the past. Crisis Support Workers and Keyworkers can explain that the emotions they are feeling are a normal reaction to a very stressful situation. It is hoped that by offering support in the early stages, the Crisis Support Workers and Keyworkers can contribute towards preventing the normal psychological responses developing into psychological or psychiatric disorders. In some circumstances, it might be appropriate to establish longer-term emotional support systems like self-help groups or professional support under wider humanitarian assistance.

Emotional support may simply be listening to people, their experiences of the emergency and their feelings away from the ears and eyes of the public, the media and other people affected by the emergency. One of the most important roles of the Crisis Support Worker/Keyworker is to simply ‘be there’. Many factors help a person to deal with a traumatic experience. The more personal resources a person has, the more likely they will be to deal with the consequences. People who have limited personal resources and access to a support network may encounter more problems in the aftermath of an emergency and therefore may be more at risk of developing longer term psychological problems. Crisis Support Workers/Keyworkers may be able to help identify people’s circumstances and needs and monitor them so that the appropriate local support may be activated if necessary.

The CSTE is not a counselling service. Counselling is often a misconceived term which can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. There is a place for it and counselling can be very valuable. What needs to be distinguished is the difference between practical and emotional support that needs to be provided in the short and medium term, the first few days and weeks, and the type of psychological care that may be required in the longer term.

Humanitarian Assistance telephone support/ helpline

After an emergency, there may be a need to establish a telephone support service where callers can seek advice or discuss their reactions to the emergency and any issues they may have.

A humanitarian assistance telephone support line can provide a one-stop-shop for humanitarian assistance, providing access to practical and emotional support, including a listening ear should someone just want to talk about their experiences and feelings.

Advice & Guidance

If an emergency affects a specific community, location or organisation, the members of the Crisis Support Team for Essex can attend planning meetings and offer advice and guidance to organisations based on its expertise and experience of its members.

Support to Bereaved Families with Police Family Liaison Officers

If a family has someone missing, injured or killed in an emergency, they may be assigned a Police Family Liaison Officer. The family may require support and assistance with issues, such as stress and trauma, funeral arrangements, financial or legal advice, health or social care services. Crisis Support Workers and Keyworkers can work in partnership with FLOs to assist in providing access to these services and co-ordinate the referral of families to more longer-term support.  


6. Who is the scheme for?

The scheme is for people affected by an emergency within Essex or for Essex residents affected by an emergency that occurs in another area of the UK or abroad and the services are equally accessible to all people in the County of Essex, regardless of their background, culture or faith e.g.

  • Those who have been injured (an injured survivor or walking wounded)

  • Those directly caught up in the incident, but who are not physically hurt (a non-injured survivor)

  • Families and friends of the injured, missing or deceased

  • Wider sections of the community whose lives are affected or disrupted

  • Witnesses and spectators


A person affected can be one or more of these types eg a survivor can also be a witness, and a bereaved family member.



Those who have survived an emergency, regardless of having suffered any injuries, may be traumatised and suffering from shock, intense anxiety and grief. They may be desperate for information about their own relatives, friends and colleagues, information about the emergency, number and location of other survivors, and what will happen to them next. They may need practical help in contacting family and friends, transport back home, finding temporary accommodation and financial advice and assistance. They may also need emotional and social support in the short term and perhaps psychological support in the longer term.



Many family and friends will travel to the scene of the emergency if they believe their loved ones have been involved. They may go the scene of the incident, hospital or meeting point. They will be feeling intense anxiety, shock or grief and will need a sensitive and empathetic approach, together with accurate, consistent and honest information about the way the emergency is being dealt with.

They may need emotional and social support in the short term and perhaps psychological support in the longer term.



A community can be affected by an emergency in practical and emotional terms. Practically, their lives may be directly affected by the response to the emergency. For example, roads may be closed whilst an investigation, recovery and/or clean up is underway. Its normal routine may be affected in that activities are cancelled, normal service delivery is slower or cancelled whilst people are dealing with the effects of the emergency e.g. a community centre may be used as a rest centre or information centre in the aftermath of an emergency and normal activities such as sports, clubs may need to be cancelled. People will need to be kept informed of the impact that the emergency will have, or is having on their community.

Members of a community may feel emotionally affected by an emergency occurring in their area. Depending on the nature of the emergency, they may feel victimised, or threatened which can cause intense feelings of shock, anxiety and grief. Members of the community may know survivors of the emergency or bereaved relatives of those killed, or they may be spectators or witnesses of the emergency itself.

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