Most people would agree that Victim support is a worthwhile and valuable service, but, as it was is now it is to be axed.
The government funded 80 per cent of Victim Support, but now this has been cancelled and the service has been devolved to a local level, with police and crime commissioners (PCC) deciding how care and funding is provided in their force areas.
This is the case for most of the country, but two PCCs have decided not to provide funding, one is Northumbria the Cambridgeshire.
Northumbria PCC Vera Baird has decided it will offer its own ‘in house’ victim care structure. In my opinion this will destroy all of the hard work and vast experience done and gained by the previous Victim Support workers, all of whom are volunteers.
It was reported that staff in the offices in Newcastle, North Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead will lose their roles and have been told they can re-apply for new roles.
Although it is stated the new service will be independent, people are bound to ask how independent will it actually be? Especially if it is running under the overall control of the PCC.
The beauty of the ‘old’ scheme was its independence, victims of crime and domestic abuse could and did feel safe talking to the volunteers, and in many cases poured their hearts out to them as well as confiding in them.
Another point is how many victims will want to engage with the police when a lot of victims feel they are under the scrutiny of their attackers and regarded as ‘informers’?
Many victims have said the scheme was an absolute lifeline, without the direct influence of the police, which goes to show how valuable this service was considered.
The tragedy in this is the great loss of experience and dedication that will disappear with many of the volunteers.
These volunteers dealt with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, not the easiest people to deal with, and all the years of experience and trust that will be lost are irreplaceable.
I, as a retired police officer, obviously with a great deal of experience of victims and their problems (as did all police officers), knew the value of the Victim Support Service, and believe it is a travesty that such a valued service should be lost by being transformed into an afterthought overseen by the PCC, or the police.
All that hard, sometimes dangerous, dedicated service to victims of crime goes by the board.