Frequently Asked Questions
1.What is the Crisis Support Team for Essex?
The Crisis Support Team for Essex is a multi-agency support service for people affected by major incidents or emergencies within Essex, or residents of Essex affected by a major incident or 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 various agencies and 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 the 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
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 major incident or 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 incident and how quickly a community is restored to a sense of normality.
A major incident or 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.
4. How is the scheme set up?
In peacetime, the scheme is managed by Essex County Council's Emergency Planning & Resilience Team. In the event of an emergency, it is led by Essex County Council’s Social Care Services. The scheme is co-ordinated by a multi-agency core team of people called the Crisis Support Response Co-ordination Group and can be delivered by that group and/or by four Crisis Support Local Support Teams. These teams comprise Crisis Support Workers 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, Southend and Thurrock
EAST - Colchester and Tendring
WEST - Brentwood, Epping Forest, Harlow and Uttlesford
The Crisis Support Team for Essex (CSTE):
Provides a multi-agency Response Co-ordination Group to: co-ordinate the crisis support response to those affected by a major incident or emergency; offer advice & guidance in terms of social & psychological effects of major incidents or emergencies; & identify & promote good practice & joint working across the public sector, private sector & voluntary agencies.
Provides a voluntary system of trained individuals with diverse competencies & skills who are able to offer various levels of crisis support to those affected by a major incident or emergency, including suitable individuals who can work in partnership with Police Family Liaison Officers.
Offers corporate & multi-agency raising awareness training & specialist training to ensure diversity of skills & competencies among members of the CSTE & other agencies across Essex.
Establishes & maintains links with academic & professional groups to access specialist services; keeps up to date with local & national developments in crisis support work & 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, experience it as much as possible. 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 can offer practical support by acting as an advocate to those people affected, explaining the plans and procedures involved in a major incident or 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 incident, making it less painful, is the main objective.
In the immediate aftermath of a major incident or emergency, people are likely to experience a range of emotions, which can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. A major incident or emergency can change everything for someone – it changes their today, their future and it can re-define the past. Crisis Support Workers 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 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.
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 disaster. One of the most important roles of the Crisis Support Worker 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. These resources could be a caring, supportive family and friends, having a positive outlook, and good physical fitness. People who have limited personal resources 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 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 a major incident or 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 a major incident or emergency affects a specific community, location or organisation, the Crisis Support Co-ordination Group 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 a major incident, 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 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. The Crisis Support Team for Essex has a protocol with Essex Police with regards to this partnership.
6. Who is the scheme for?
The scheme is for people affected by a major incident or emergency within Essex or for Essex residents affected by a major incident or 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 a major incident, 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 a major incident or 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 a major incident or 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.
7. Do I need particular experience to become a crisis support worker?
Most of all we are looking for people who have empathy, are good listeners, able to respond at short notice and are good in a crisis as well as being resilient themselves. We focus on their suitability & willingness to support people who have been affected by an emergency, rather than stipulate professional qualifications & backgrounds. However, some skills & experience is essential for certain roles.
Crisis Support Workers must:
Must undertake the information event (half day), foundation training (2 days) & continuation training (3 days) within the first eighteen months
Must undertake an interview
Must take part in a call out system (although you can be inactive for periods of time and opt out for personal circumstances);
Must pass an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check for children and adults (check about any criminal record)
If in employment and/or volunteering, must have the written support of their line manager or sponsoring organisation
We welcome recruits from the following agencies/organisations: Social Workers; Health workers; Faith Groups; Education; Funeral Director staff; Local Authority (District/County/Unitary); Voluntary Organisations (not an inclusive list)
We recognise the value of a diversity in which people from differing backgrounds can contribute towards delivering a high quality service. Our aim is to recruit a team of volunteers which reflects the local community.
Below is a list of competencies which we will seek on completion of the information event and 2 day foundation training:
Lessons identified from previous emergencies in respect of the human aspects, e.g. the Marchioness disaster and how that led to the role of the police FLO working in partnership with the local authorities
Procedures and processes involved in an emergency, such as body identification and criminal justice system and the way in which these may impact on individuals, families and the wider community
Roles and responsibilities of response agencies to the human aspects of emergencies
Crisis support services that may be required to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of individuals experiencing crisis
The potential impact, in both the short and long term that crisis and sudden loss may have upon an individual’s life, families and the wider community eg trauma and its effects, stress reactions, grief and bereavement
The impact that caring for individuals in crisis can have on self and other support workers and knowledge the importance of adhering to the welfare arrangements of the scheme
Practical arrangements e.g. code of conduct, insurance, team leaders etc.
Self-awareness whilst working in emotionally charged situations
Ability to deliver support services in a calm and professional manner
Ability to listen and communicate effectively in a crisis
Ability to undertake simple practical welfare tasks whilst responding constructively to emotional needs
Ability to deal with sensitive information in a confidential manner
Sensitivity to diversity
Flexible to enable working in rapidly changing situations
Ability to work on own initiative within an agreed framework
A willingness to apply existing experience, skills, abilities and knowledge to supporting people affected by an emergency
Ability to work as a team
To support the team leader in offering welfare to fellow crisis support workers as required
Able to respect the independence and choices of people
A commitment to learning and personal development towards being an effective crisis support worker
Willingness to engage in the scheme evaluating the training, its progress, and contribution towards the planning process
A positive approach towards the objectives of the CSTE and recognise the needs of fellow crisis support workers
8. If I become a crisis support worker, what are the expectations of me ?
To agree to details being held electronically in a message alert system and to participate in the event of an emergency
Ability to travel when deployed to support people affected by an emergency and to events organised by the Crisis Support Team for Essex (CSTE)
To have the written support of their line manager or sponsoring organisation in agreeing to the release from work
To undertake the induction and foundation training and have an ability and willingness to undertake a minimum of 3 days continuation training within the first 18 months of membership
To ensure that their skills and knowledge are maintained and kept up to date to deliver the range of crisis support services expected
To attend training, exercises and local team events on a regular basis
To ensure that their contact details are kept up to date on the Crisis Support Workers database
To offer, as requested by the Team Leader, a range of crisis support services within the framework established for the emergency and within the competencies to which they are trained
Assess the needs of people they are supporting, in conjunction with other relevant agencies
To maintain a log of all activities undertaken. This should include notes of all contacts made
Once deployed, commit to supporting people affected by emergencies and helping to meet their needs, whilst balancing their own welfare and practical needs and subject to line manager approval if appropriate
9. Do Crisis Support Workers Receive Payment?
No, although expenses made in the event of an emergency are reimbursed. Any involvement in the CSTE is voluntary and an extension to other professional and/or voluntary activities.
10. If I need to respond during work time, will I need to take leave?
You will need to discuss your involvement in the scheme when you are recruited with your line manager. The Crisis Support Team for Essex has worked hard to raise awareness about the scheme and its value to society amongst a range of agencies in Essex such as Essex County Council, District and Borough Councils, Health agencies etc. We are relying on the goodwill and commitment of these organisations to support their staff to volunteer and be able to respond during work time, or have time off if having been deployed overnight.
It is up to your line manager and you to discuss whether this means having paid leave, unpaid leave, taking annual leave or volunteer entitlement. You will receive more information about this and a relevant form when you attend the information event.
11. Do I need to be able to drive as a Crisis Support Worker?
As you could be deployed to any area of Essex depending on the location of the emergency, yes please. In terms of vehicle insurance, crisis support workers are responsible for arranging their own cover if they use their own vehicles in connection with the CSTE. They should inform their insurers that the vehicle is being used for voluntary work and they will be advised to do this as a crisis support worker.
Crisis support workers drivers need to have at least third party insurance
Crisis support workers need to inform their insurers of the voluntary work they are doing and to ensure this is agreed
The CSTE will check the worker’s insurance certificate is current, along with the annual driving licence and MOT checks. This is Essex County Council policy for staff, but it is also good practice in the voluntary sector, and is part of the National Centre for Volunteering guidelines. An organisation needs to be confident people carrying out voluntary work on their behalf have full, valid driving licences and that their vehicles are safe.
12. What is the level of commitment in terms of my time required in an emergency?
It will depend on the nature of the emergency and the impacts on people affected on what time commitment is required. You can volunteer as little or as much of your time as you are able and what your line manager agrees to. This may be a few hours in an emergency assistance centre providing a listening ear or sitting with people whilst they wait for news about what is happening, or it could be dedicated a certain number of days to providing support to a bereaved family in an emergency assistance centre or in their home.
When asked to respond, you have every right to decline according to your personal circumstances at the time or your work commitments or if you just don’t feel up to it.
13. Do I need to live in Essex to be a crisis support worker for the CSTE?
14. I have a full time job. Is all the CSTE training in the day?
No, we hold training events in the evenings as well as during the day. We recognise that many crisis support workers work full time and have busy lives, so we try to hold our training at varying times of the day/evening to suit as many people as possible.
15. Where is CSTE training held?
We hold the majority of our training in the central areas of Essex such as Chelmsford. However, we also arrange local area based training where you live and work so as many people can attend as easily as possible.
16. What are the benefits to me if I join the CSTE?
There is a range of intrinsic benefits of being involved in the CSTE including:
Being part of a support service that can really make a difference
Acquisition of skills & experience
Opportunities to access local, regional & national training events
Working & learning within a supportive multi-agency group
We have some volunteers who have been a member since 2005 and who can provide feedback on their experiences – more information will be available at the information event.
17. What support will i receive if i become a Crisis Support Worker?
You will receive training about looking after your own welfare plus a Team Leader who will look after your needs when deployed.
You will receive briefings and have opportunities for debriefs in an emergency.
You will work as part of a team who will provide peer support and receive a range of literature to inform you about how you may feel when you have responded to an emergency and what support is available afterwards and how to access it.
18. What checks will I need to have to be a crisis support worker?
You will need to undergo an enhanced check through the Disclosure and Barring Service for adults and children. More information about this is on the website: https://www.gov.uk/disclosure-barring-service-check/overview
You will need to provide two references and demonstrate you have a full and clean Driver’s Licence and MOT certificate.
More information will be available at the information event.
19. I already have a DBS check. Will I need another one?
Those people who already have an enhanced DBS check for children and adults and who have signed up to the online checking system will not need another DBS check.
20. How do I apply to become a Crisis Support Worker?
Please use the form on the Contact page.
21. What does the recruitment and selection process involve?
You will have received a ‘Volunteering with CSTE’ information pack, this Frequently Asked Question sheet and invitation to an information event.
You will need to attend the information event to register your agreement to receive an application form, line manager’s/co-ordinator’s release form and DBS form.
Having completed the completed application form and associated forms and we are satisfied that you could be a suitable crisis support worker, you will be offered an interview and we will send off for references.
You will bring your DBS check evidence and signed forms with you to the interview which will involve questions from us to find out your skills, experience and resilience plus give you an opportunity to ask us questions.
There is then a compulsory 2 day training event to provide you with the minimum amount of knowledge needed to be a crisis support worker plus provide you with the tools to develop the skills required. This will be interactive training and feedback is always excellent.
The CSTE Planning Co-ordination Group will agree to the selection of crisis support workers and allocate roles as to which team you will join (depending on where you live); whether you could be offered the role of Team Leader and what level you will become (level 1 or 2 depending on your skills and experience).
Once you have successfully completed the application process (including the DBS check, and references) you will be sent a confirmation email asking for a photo for your ID card and will then be sent your ID card and CSTE resource pack.
This will all be explained at the information event.