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Humanitarian Assistance Unit

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the role of the Humanitarian Assistance Unit is; on what basis the unit is located in her Department; what projects the unit has funded to date; and if she will make a statement. (109583)

My role as Minister for Humanitarian Assistance is to ensure that the needs of British victims of major emergencies and of their families are understood and properly considered within Government in building preparedness for and responding to major emergencies, and to represent the Government and explain their policies when dealing with victims and their families.

The Humanitarian Assistance Unit supports me in that role by leading three areas of work. First, it co-ordinates aftercare for victims of recent emergencies—offering a direct point of contact within Government, organising memorial and commemorative events, learning lessons from victims' experiences, and funding the 7 July Assistance Centre. Secondly, it assists emergency planning ahead of future incidents—working with other parts of central Government and alongside local responders to find ways to improve existing services. Finally it supports local responders in the response to an emergency—providing a link for local responders to advice and support from central Government.

In the first year of the unit's existence, funding has been provided: to support the 7 July Assistance Centre; for an independent evaluation of that centre; to produce non-statutory guidance for emergency responders on establishing Humanitarian Assistance Centres; to commission a review of academic literature and best practice on how to meet people’s needs in an emergency; and for events to commemorate the first anniversary of the 7 July bombings and to remember those who died in terrorist attacks overseas in 2005.