The seconds, minutes and hours after a road collision are shocking and traumatic but the hardest times can be in the days, weeks, months and years after a life-changing road traffic collision.
The emergency response services have done their jobs and you are left in hospital or at home feeling overwhelmed, isolated and desperate to know how you are going to move forward. You or a loved one may be seriously injured. The road traffic collision may have resulted in fatalities and you are grieving.
It may not seem like anyone can help but support is available from people who have some understanding of what you are feeling and what you are about to go through.
A number of organisations and charities exist to help victims and their families after a road traffic collision. Birchall Blackburn Law supports one such amazing charity in North West England, called Aftermath Support.
Aftermath Support is a charity that helps all victims of road collisions across Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and parts of Greater Manchester. The charity also offers support anywhere they have volunteers and all over the UK via the telephone.
It began as a pilot scheme for Merseyside, funded and supported by the Home Office and in partnership with three organisations: RoadPeace, Headway and Merseyside Police. Its aim was to improve support provided to victims of incidents involving road death and serious injury. The pilot ended in May 2005 but proved to be so successful and vital to the victims of road traffic incidents that Aftermath Support is now an independent registered charity (1111298) and continues to help hundreds of people every year.
Aftermath Support still maintains a close working relationship with Merseyside Police, Headway and RoadPeace. It has also built up a considerable network of support services with other organisations and charities that help people in need.
The charity’s volunteers are trained to take into account the individual needs of road traffic victims and the definition of ‘victim’ is in the widest sense of the word. They offer support to the seriously injured, the bereaved, families, friends, carers, RTC witnesses and, in some cases, the drivers and their families.
Karen Blair, CEO of Aftermath Support, and her team are the heart of the charity’s service. We spoke to Karen to find out what the charity does for road traffic victims and their families, as well as how the public can help and what the charity’s plans for the future are.
Tell us a little about your background?
Prior to 2007 I had a varied work history to fit with family commitments but never felt a sense of job satisfaction or of reaching my full potential, so I decided to volunteer for a wonderful local Charity, Wirral Mind, to ‘give something back’. It was there I had my first experience of the third sector, and I loved it! Wirral Minds CEO Sandra Gilbert saw the potential in me and introduced me to the wonderful world of Advocacy and I became their Advocate for people with Learning Disabilities and haven’t looked back since. Sandra ignited an untapped passion in me and helped me understand and appreciate my own personal values and I’ll be forever grateful to her.
Since then, I have spent the last 15 years working with hundreds of individuals in several Charities gaining experience in leading, developing, and delivering services in the field of advocacy throughout the Northwest of England. I’m passionate about people who use Public Services having their voices heard and their rights upheld, and I’ve experienced first-hand the difference not-for-profit organisations have made to those who are marginalised in and by society and/or experienced the medical model of care and support services from the public sector. There’s still a long way to go for people with disabilities and mental ill-health to feel valued, equal, and included in services and I’ll forever be passionate about people unlocking and achieving their potential, social justice, and human rights for all!
While we’re a service people won’t have heard of until the worst time of their lives, it’s a much-needed support mechanism to help those affected to cope with what they’ve been through. We help them to try and make sense of and understand what to expect of the post-crash process in their own circumstances in the weeks and months ahead. We also work to support road safety initiatives and to amplify the voices of those affected by road crash. The ripple effect of the impact of a road crash on communities and all those involved such as witnesses shouldn’t be underestimated, the right support for all really does have a positive individual and societal benefit, not just in the immediate aftermath of a crash, but for many years to come. Appropriate post-crash support helps people adjust and adapt to their lives never being the same again!
What part do you play in the running of Aftermath? Who looks after what?
Part of my role is to deliver the organisation’s strategic and business plan, ensuring that Aftermath Support has the funding and profile to be successful now and in the future for the benefit of the people we support, which is the mission and aims of our Charity. I also look after the development and day-to-day running of the Charity and support our experienced and dedicated team, which is the best part of my day. They’re amazing and make a positive difference to bereaved families and seriously injured survivors post-crash experience in so many ways
Aftermath Support are very much a community-focused charity. Which organisations/charities does Aftermath work alongside?
We work closely with Merseyside Police as we are their nominated post-crash support provider, along with surrounding forces in Cheshire, Lancashire, and Greater Manchester. It’s our view that establishing good working relationships with other organisations and charities only helps us ensure post-crash support is offered to people as soon as they need it. It serves the people we support well that we work alongside other support providers such as RoadPeace, Cheshire Cares, Brake and lots of other local and national charities. If somebody we support needs help that we don’t provide, we’ll find it for them.
How does Aftermath support people? What happens when someone calls up that very first time?
At Aftermath we offer emotional and practical support, which can be anything from talking to someone weekly, giving them information about the post-crash investigation process, funeral grants, anything really. What people experience when they lose a loved one in a crash or receive life-changing injuries is different with each individual, but we’re there to help them through it in the weeks and months ahead. Our first contact with people is to simply let them know we’re there for them whatever they need and whatever happens!
Is there anything that a friend or family member can do to help someone cope after a road traffic collision?
Listen to them and ask what they need, don’t assume, or presume that they know and start telling them what to do. The important thing is for the person to have some control and autonomy over their lives after such a massive upheaval, especially the loss of a loved one. Let them say how they feel and what they want. The ripples of a road crash can reach far and wide in ways none of us could understand unless we experienced it.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your work with Aftermath Support?
I’m most proud of our team when it comes to my work in Aftermath Support. Speaking to people who are experiencing the worst time of their lives takes a very special person and they do it multiple times a week. The difference they make to people’s lives can’t be quantified but the letters, emails and feedback we receive from people and what they say about their RTC care and support officer and the difference they’ve made to them in their own lives often brings a tear to my eye.
Is there an important lesson that you’ve learned whilst working at Aftermath?
Due to my previous work with some of our community’s most marginalised citizens, I always knew people can be resilient, but never knew how much until I began speaking to people affected by road crash. The devastation caused is immense, yet somehow people find a way to make it through and are truly inspirational.
How can people donate to Aftermath? How can a member of the public help you and the work that you do?
We are always grateful for any donations and fundraising. It’s only through these means that we can continue doing what we do, and our service is a vital lifeline for those affected. We have information on our website along with a donation portal through Just Giving. Even little things like nominating us as your chosen charity with Amazon so everything you buy we get a donation from, every little really does help and add up. And of course, if anyone can do a fundraiser such as a sponsored run or other such events, we’re able to shout about it on our social media and share it with our supporters. It always means a lot when people go out of their way to donate and support us. We’re developing our volunteer offer but we’re always on the lookout for people to help with things like our social media and back-office functions which means we can focus our resources on providing one-to-one support for people.
What does the future hold for Aftermath and where do you hope to see it in 10 years’ time?
We have developed a great deal over the last year and hope to go from strength to strength. Our aim is to grow so we can reach more people in their time of need and to expand our offer so we can provide everything in-house. We aim to avoid people having to tell their heartbreaking story more than once. We are introducing counselling into our service soon so people can recover in a timely way without having to wait for statutory services, which can cause more decline in the person’s life. I would hope in 10 years’ time to be handing over the reins of a successful and financially stable charity to the next generation.
To find out more about Aftermath Support call 0845 634 4273, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aftermathsupport.org.uk.