More than just community spirit in times of crisis
Dr Katy Wright has written an article for The Conversation following the series of tragic events in the UK in recent months.
The article highlights the brilliant responses from the community with volunteers and organisations offering support to those most affected with food, shelter and local businesses donating goods and services.
However, Katy points out the failure of the local council and the UK government to respond appropriately in the case of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Discussing the consequences of this, she reminds the reader that “more than two weeks after the fire, people there are still waiting for information, to be rehoused, or to access emergency funds.”
Katy goes on to discuss the responsibilities on local councils to respond to emergencies, since the introduction of the Civil Contingencies Act (2004).
Whilst local councils have emergency plans for major incidents these tend to be focused more on short-term response than on the longer process of recovery and on the role of citizens in emergencies. Recent policy has emphasised the need for the public to play a more active role in emergency situations and their aftermath.
The article highlights an issue with this approach: support has been limited to sharing good practice rather than with funding or support to local group organisation. This is on top of government spending cuts that may make some more exposed to hazards, such as the risk of flooding.
Katy suggests the tragedy at Grenfell Tower seems to be an example of the government piling up problems for the future in addition to the ongoing programme of austerity. Affecting more people than ever, “these kinds of struggles with day-to-day survival undermine people’s ability to cope with disaster.”
“These recent events have underlined the vital role that local and central government must play during emergencies. Not only with the aim of getting back to “business as usual” but also to provide practical and emotional support to victims and their families in the following days, months and years.”