UK appoints independent adviser to help survivors of disasters

Role will offer fast assistance and advice to survivors of major incidents

Victims of major incidents, such as the Manchester Arena terror attack, are to be given faster help. PA
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The UK has appointed a new permanent independent adviser to provide support for victims of major disasters in England and Wales.

The Independent Public Advocate (IPA) will offer faster help and advice to survivors of incidents such as the Manchester Arena bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire.

This will include advising victims on how to access vital financial, physical and mental health services and ensuring they understand their rights. The role, however, is not that of a legal representative.

The incumbent will advise the government on whether a review or inquiry should take place following a major incident and will have the power to produce reports without a direct request from the Justice Secretary.

When not helping those affected by a disaster, the incumbent will build relationships with public bodies involved in major incident response.

Both the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Executive will be able to establish their own IPA.

“A permanent Independent Public Advocate available for rapid deployment will mean victims can receive vital emotional and practical support from day one," Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said.

“These reforms will give victims a voice when decisions are made about the type of review or inquiry to be held into a disaster and will help to ensure lessons are learnt.”

The creation of an IPA was first proposed as a manifesto commitment in 2017 by the then-prime minister Theresa May.

It was in response to a report by Bishop James Jones, titled The Patronising Disposition Of Unaccountable Power, which found failings in the way the bereaved families of the Hillsborough disaster were treated by those in authority.

Former justice secretary Dominic Raab then confirmed plans to pass legislation for the role in March, with amendments being made to the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

The government will also be able to appoint specialist advocates with relevant experience to each individual disaster alongside the IPA to offer expert advice and insight, such as community leaders who hold the confidence of victims.

A major incident is defined as an event that occurs in England or Wales and is declared in writing by the Justice Secretary to have caused the death of or serious harm to a significant number of people.

Updated: November 26, 2023, 1:14 PM