For several families every year in Bedfordshire that’s a tragic dilemma they have to face when a loved one is killed in a road traffic incident.
Thirteen people were killed on the roads in the county last year, and the Road Victims Trust is helping many of their family, friends and witnesses deal with the aftermath.
“The impact on a family can be exactly the same as a murder,” said the Trust’s Chief Executive Steve Ottaway. “The sooner they can get support the sooner they can adjust.
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The Trust, which covers Beds and Herts and moved into Cambridgeshire in April, has around 30 volunteers who act as counsellors.
Once police have confirmed a road fatality, the charity is provided with the details of people who have been affected, which can often include witnesses to the crashes.
It then approaches people offering free counselling and practical support through the long legal process which will include inquests and often court cases.
There is face to face support and contact for as long as anyone needs it, from a few weeks to a couple of years in some cases.
The charity has been going since 2003 after splitting from Victims Support to offer a more specialised service for those affected by road deaths.
“It’s sudden, it’s unexpected and it’s violent, “ said Steve. “You don’t have a chance to say goodbye.
“The collision may have occurred on a road you drive down every day. Add on top of that the fact that sometimes no-one can show anyone to have done anything wrong, there can be a feeling that there is no justice.”
Volunteers understand the court system and can act as a conduit between family and the police.
They are trained, or in training and build on core counselling skills which help them to be equipped for bereavement counselling.
“The processes around road deaths are complex and we have very intensive training and set high standards because we are asking people to go into the homes of people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“We can go with them to the court and provide complete support services for as long as it is useful for the individual,” said Steve.
Although it is difficult to put a figure on it the Trust says its work saves pressure on the NHS, can reduce the time someone has to see their GP, cut back on sick leave and reduce the likelihood of mental and physical problems in the future.
Witnesses, who can be traumatised by what they have seen, tend to use the services for a shorter time that the family and friends of victims.
As with many charities in the current climate, funding is a struggle. While the charity does receive grants from the Ministry of Justice the vast bulk of donations come from businesses and individuals. There are some grants from local authorities and charities , along with funding from the police to set up the Cambridgeshire operation.
The charity is also looking for volunteers, around another 10-15 are needed.
A counselling volunteer would be expected to have on average two clients a week. The majority of the work is undertaken as a one hour home visit and so with travel, report writing, supervision and meetings about 6-8 hours a week is needed to fulfil the role.
Contact with the bereaved families is always through the trust’s manned office, and the volunteers are themselves supported.
For further enquiries call 01234 843345 or Email: [email protected]
>To find out more about the Trust’s work go to http://www.roadvictimstrust.org.uk/