Posted: Monday 10th February 2020
As part of the #BeHeard campaign, we spoke to Hayley Lewis, Service Manager for Victims of Crime Advocacy Service (VOCAS) at Swan Advocacy, who discussed the service and how victims can access support.
VOCAS provides an enhanced service to those that have been victims of crime or anti social behaviour (ASB) and have an enhanced need. Enhanced needs include having barriers or additional needs in relation to communication and accessing services. We also support those who have been targeted due to a protected characteristic such as:
- Learning disability
- Mental Health needs
- Physical Disability
- Problems associated with old age
- Social exclusion or isolation
- Gender Identity
VOCAS will work with victims regardless of whether the crime/ASB has been reported and no matter how long ago the crime/ASB took place, though victims must live within Avon and Somerset to be eligible.
The support VOCAS provides
VOCAS provides advocacy alongside practical and emotional support. Our support empowers and enables individuals to cope and recover from their experience as a victim of crime/ASB.
Advocacy is taking action to help people to be able to get their views across, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services. Advocates work alongside the people they support and take their side.
Victim Advocates will speak up for people who, for whatever reason, feel unable to do so for themselves. This might be because they have lost their confidence or have an illness or disability.
Examples of practical support include supporting a victim to change the locks on their property, attending a return to work interview and liaising with professionals involved in the victim’s case.
Emotional support may include listening to the victim and helping them to understand the impact of the crime/ASB and challenging any myths around certain crimes (if the victim is considering reporting).
Advocacy and practical and emotional support are incredibly important for those with enhanced needs. Quite often being a victim of crime/ASB can result in a victim feeling as if they have lost control of everything in their life, which may leave them feeling disempowered. Advocacy is crucial in order to help the victim to speak for themselves, regain control of their life and feel empowered to make decisions.
How we work with the Constabulary and other partners and support services
VOCAS works in close partnership with Victim Support, Safe Link, Resolve West and Young Victims Service. We work very closely with our partners and the Constabulary to ensure that clients are receiving the best support from the right service.
We also work to ensure our service is accessible to BME and LGBTQ communities. Our entire workforce has undertaken an advance programme of equalities training - including LGBT Matters, Transgender Awareness and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, delivered by The Diversity Trust. We have attended local events such as Pride and the Recovery Festival, sharing stalls with our partners.
We also work very closely with SARI to ensure those who have been victims of hate crime get the best service from either SARI or VOCAS.
Our partners have been such great support since VOCAS launched, sharing their knowledge, expertise and advice. They have been a huge part of our success. I’d like to extend a big thank you to them all!
How people can access VOCAS
If you have been a victim of crime or ASB and have an enhanced need please get in touch, as it is likely we can help you. We can also take referrals from friends, family members and professionals. If we cannot help we will do our best to signpost you to a partner organisation or another agency. Contact us by phone 03333 44 7928 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.