By Andrew Holt
Responding to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s decision on the future of victims’ services, national charity Victim Support has expressed serious disappointment at the Government’s decision to hand control of victims’ services budgets to the new police and crime commissioners (PCCs).
The Government’s decision comes despite the fact that 136 out of 196 respondents to the Ministry of Justice’s own consultation oppose plans to break up the highly-regarded services on which hundreds of thousands of victims and witnesses depend.
Victim Support welcomed some of the measures announced today as well as the new responsibilities PCCs will have for listening to victim and witnesses.
However, the charity remains deeply concerned that local commissioning will not be cost effective and will lead to patchy victims’ services.
The charity will continue to seek safeguards to ensure victims and witnesses have access to high quality services wherever they live in England and Wales and that their personal information is protected at all times.
The fears about local commissioning are shared by numerous individuals and organisations including:
A delegation of Coalition MPs, to be led by Priti Patel, Conservative MP for Witham, who will meet with justice ministers this evening to discuss why the Government’s proposals are not in the best interests of victims and witnesses.
National organisations including Liberty, the Police Federation; and the charity NSPCC;
An alliance of 29 victims charities, including Escaping Victimhood and the Jimmy Mizen Foundation, who have submitted written concerns to government;
44 MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion to raise the issues in Parliament; and
Over twelve thousand members of the public who have signed a petition against the proposals.
Even by the Government’s own estimate, the cost of this change will mean the loss of intensive support for 25,000 victims of domestic violence or support for 20,000 victims of antisocial behaviour.
Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of Victim Support, said: “While we welcome the continuation of the national witness service and the ambition for extra funding for victims, we are extremely disappointed that the Government has not put victims and witnesses of crime first in all respects.
“Not only have the Government chosen to ignore the massed voices of parliamentarians, professional bodies, experts from the sector and the public but their argument is, in places, confused. If it is right for Witness Services to be delivered nationally, then why is the help that victims of crime receive not to be treated in the same way?
“70% of respondents have said local commissioning is not in the best interests of victims and witnesses, yet the Government has not listened. Despite the Government’s unfounded suggestions of ‘inflexibility’ and a ‘one-size fits all model’ today, Victim Support provides excellent value for money, economies of scale and ultimately a very high user satisfaction rate of 94%. So why change what works?
“Governments come and go but Victim Support has nearly 40 years’ experience helping and standing up for victims and witnesses. Our commitment to this will not stop.”
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