Crisis Social Work

Man asleep on airport chair

Each year, approximately 70 million passengers use Heathrow‘s 90 airlines, to fly to around 184 destinations worldwide.

The scale of this operation, combined with cargo and retail, requires diverse staff of around 72,000 staff (2009 stats). Additionally, Heathrow has an extensive land transport operation – London Underground, Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect and the Heathrow Coach Station all offer public transport alternatives to private car journeys.

An ever greater range and number of people are travelling and their customer expectations are increasing. This growth brings additional challenges with the potential to impact on local operations.

Day to day work

Each day, a diverse range of social problems are seen at Heathrow.

  • air travel presents challenges for some people experiencing mental distress or ill health
  • Some vulnerable adults and families may need advice or protection from harm
  • those returning from abroad after many years absence, may need guidance to access local support networks – family, friends, ex-service organizations, or services such as housing, welfare benefits or legal advice, to enable them to leave the airport and improve their difficult situation
  • A member of staff from Heathrow Airport may need some private, confidential advice regarding a distressing situation

A social work assessment can help balance individuals’ rights with risks, and help avert further distress or difficulties.

Referrals can be made by the person, or any one of our partner agencies. An initial assessment, in person, by telephone, fax, or email, can offer appropriate action with the person / referrer, this may include: crisis intervention, advice / information / advocacy, or a further referral to a more appropriate agency.

Our role

To assess, advise and assist people who are using, or planning to use Heathrow Airport. We take referrals from around the airport, the UK and the world, working in partnership with other agencies to assist anyone who may have a difficulty using Heathrow Airport.

Why Heathrow Travel Care?

Local Authorities have a statutory duty of care for under 16’s, older people and people with a severe and proven current mental health problem or disability. Those who fall outside this tight remit, who do not have a robust voluntary / community or family connection, may remain at risk and be unsupported. The statutory duty of care, often only extends to an assessment of need, and not always the provision of immediate services. The Local Authority that covers Heathrow airport is London Borough of Hillingdon.

Many people returning after a long absence from the UK do not have an established local connection in Hillingdon, and as such may not be eligible for services there.

“A large proportion of clients we assess are not likely to be eligible immediately for statutory services. We provide professional social work expertise to the high numbers of client contacts received every year. We have an extensive knowledge of, and working links with, relevant bodies and resources – on airport, locally, nationally and internationally. This enables us to respond flexibly to the needs of the airport community.”


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