From April 1, 2015, victims of crime and anti-social (ASB) behaviour across Avon and Somerset, received access to new victim support services commissioned by Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens.
Sue Mountstevens set about establishing victim services better tailored to local need, after responsibility for putting in place support services for victims was transferred from the Ministry of Justice to PCCs in October 2014.
After consulting with victims, partners and service providers to identify gaps in current provision and developing a Commissioning Plan, organisations were invited to bid for the provision on the newly identified services.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said: "We’ve started from scratch to review what’s right for our communities in 2015 and come up with a fresh approach, rather than simply continuing with what already existed. I am excited about the services and am confident they will help those people who unfortunately experience crime and anti-social behaviour."
Support services commissioned by the PCC include: Lighthouse Integrated Victim and Witness Care, an emotional support service for victims of crime and ASB, an adults advocacy service, a children and young people’s advocacy service, an independent sexual violence advisor (ISVA) service and a one year pilot modern slavery support service.
Today, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, PCC Sue Mountstevens will meet with each of the providers and find out more about how the services have been working and benefitting victims since they went live in April.
The PCC’s first visit of the day is with SafeLink who received £194,580 to provide support to victims of rape and sexual assault via independent sexual violence advisors.
The service is for men, women and children who have been victims of rape of sexual assault, regardless of whether the incidents are current or not-current, or whether victims have reported the incident to the police or not.
SafeLink provide free, confidential, emotional and practical support as well as offering a safe place to talk about what happened; help with housing/benefits/talking to an employer or family, counselling and peer support.
Victims do not have to report to the police but if they wish, SafeLink will also support with making a statement, speaking to the police, supporting the victim through court, providing ongoing help and assisting with criminal injury compensation claims.
A victims supported by SafeLink said: "Being supported to go to court and get justice was comforting because I knew he couldn't hurt me or anyone else again."
The service is available from Monday to Friday, 9-5pm and they also have out of hours emergency phone support. For help and advice or more information about SafeLink please email@example.com or call 0333 3231543.
The second visit of the day is to Unseen, who has been given £39,854 to deliver a one year pilot, modern slavery support service.
Set up in 2007, Unseen’s aim is to work towards a world free from slavery. They are an organisation committed to supporting victims and survivors of slavery, equipping stakeholders with a wealth of knowledge and information and influencing systematic change.
The modern slavery support service will provide a number of functions which will include the following:
- Delivery of training to frontline organisations and Lighthouse Victim Care Officers;
- Provide assistance to identify potential victims of modern slavery;
- Help support other organisations and Lighthouse Hubs by providing ongoing information and advice;
- Quantify and identify levels of trafficking in the region and;
- Provide direct support to potential victims.
After receiving outreach support from Unseen, one victim commented on how much safer she felt: "Before I was worried. I did not know whom to open up to. I was afraid of telling anyone because I could not trust anybody. Now I have more confidence because I now know where to go for help."
The service supports both men and women and for help, advice or for more information please visit www.unseen.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over lunchtime PCC Sue Mountstevens will meet with The Care Forum who, in partnership with SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality) and SEAP (Support, Empower, Advocate, Promote), will be delivering AVoice, an adults advocacy service.
Receiving £329,467.42, AVoice has been commissioned to provide an independent advocacy service for vulnerable adults affected by crime and ASB across Avon and Somerset, regardless of whether or not they have reported a crime to the police.
AVoice advocates for anyone over 18 years with mental health issues, learning difficulties, physical difficulties, problems associated with old age, problems associated with social exclusion or isolation and for those affected by issues relating to culture and identity, in particular race, sexuality, religion and belief.
Providing both face-to-face and over-the-phone advocacy, AVoice will help victims to cope and recover from the crime, work in partnership with organisations on behalf of the victim, help victims to understand the criminal justice process and listen to victims ensuring they get their voices heard.
A referral was received from Lighthouse in April. The referral involved a victim of serious assault and was referred to AVoice due to having a learning disability.
Within a day of receiving the referral an AVoice advocate had made contact with the designated person of contact, in this case the victim’s support worker.
Together the advocate and the victim, with the support worker, were able to explore the options that were available and it was decided that some short term emotional support would help the victim cope and recover from the crime.
Both the victim and the support worker told the advocate that they were thankful for the personalised face-to-face service they had received. They were both able to ask questions of the criminal justice system and provided with information.
Victims can contact AVoice using their Freephone number 0800 2540777 or by emailing email@example.com. For more information about The Care Forum visit www.thecareforum.org.
PCC Sue Mountstevens’ next visit is to the Keynsham Lighthouse Hub to not only meet with members of the Lighthouse team but also Victim Support and the North East Restorative Justice Coordinator.
Victim Support, who have been given £296,973 to deliver an emotional support service, are co-located alongside Lighthouse Integrated Victim and Witness Care and the PCC will be partaking in a floor walk to see first-hand the practicalities of working together in the same building.
Many of the victims receiving help and advice from Victim Support have been referred by the Lighthouse team. Sue Mountstevens commissioned Avon and Somerset Constabulary to develop and implement ‘Lighthouse’ Integrated Victim and Witness Care teams as part of the wider Integrated Victim Strategy.
As demonstrated by the PCC’s visit, these teams have brought together victim contact roles in the Police service, co-located with partners, to provide more coordinated end-to-end care for victims of crime and ASB.
Another aspect of the Integrated Victim Strategy is a commitment made by the PCC and the Police to developing restorative justice (RJ); the process where if you’ve been a victim of crime or ASB, you can meet face-to-face with the person responsible, with the aim of moving on from your experience by talking about it.
Avon and Somerset Restorative Justice Development Manager, Helen Rosenthal said: "Through the development of restorative justice services in Avon and Somerset we strive to put the victim at the heart of what we do. A multi-agency restorative justice service will give victims a voice and access to support."
As such, also located at each of the Lighthouse Hubs is a Restorative Justice Coordinator. To find out more about how restorative justice could help you please contact the restorative justice coordinators at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Lighthouse website.
For support or more information about Victim Support visit www.victimsupport.org.uk
PCC Sue Mountstevens’ final visit of the day is to North Somerset where she will meet with the Young Victims’ service, who received £165,000 to deliver a children and young persons’ advocacy service.
The Young Victims’ Service is for young people under 18 years of age (and up to 25 for those with additional learning needs) who need help and support following crime or anti-social behaviour against them.
The service offers Young Victims’ Advocates who work with young people to rebuild confidence. The Young Victims’ Advocates can meet with the young people in person at home, school or other suitable community venue, or they can offer support via telephone, email, Facebook or text according to the young person’s preference.
After their home was burgled, a young victim contacted the Young Victims' Service on the recommendation of Lighthouse. The 11 year old victim was struggling to cope with the aftermath of a stranger having been through the family home and was experiencing fear, particularly at night.
A Young Victims' Advocate spent time listening and understanding exactly what the young person's concerns were. Over their next few meetings, they spent time reflecting on what it is like to feel safe, practicing relaxation techniques to reduce feelings of panic, and they made a 'dream catcher' both as a positive activity and to visualise sending away the night fears.
The young victims' mother contacted the Young Victims' Service and said that since the services' involvement her child seemed happier and calmer and is beginning to relax at home again.
Young people can contact the service via Lighthouse or any other professional service for young people. They can also make direct contact by phoning 01275 884488, emailing email@example.com, visiting the services' website www.youngvictims.org.ukor on Facebook /youngvictims.
For more information on all of the victim services PCC Sue Mountstevens has visited today visit theVictim Commissioning page of the PCC's website.
The PCC is committed to spending at least one day a week out and about in the community, if you would like her to visit you please firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01275 816377.
Posted on Tuesday 23rd June 2015