Official ‘seal of approval’ for innovative victim care service in Devon and Cornwall
Devon and Cornwall’s innovative victim care service, launched earlier this year, was given the seal of approval by the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales this week.
Baroness Newlove visited the Victims Care Unit (VCU) in Exeter this Friday (September 18) to see at first-hand how the radical overhaul of the service has made an immediate and positive impact for hundreds of people.
With police and crime commissioners now responsible for victim services, Devon and Cornwall’s Tony Hogg worked closely with the chief constable to introduce the police based VCU which connects to a large network of support services.
It has replaced the previous single service provider model.
“As victims' commissioner I travel around the country supporting the police and crime commissioners and seeing what services they are setting up for victims,” she said.
“This is my first visit here, they speak about victims’ services in a way that’s quite warm and the focus is on the victim and their needs, not what the criminal justice system says they have to have.
“Victims should be treated with dignity and respect. With anything in life we get really irritated if we don’t get that response so why do we expect victims to shut up and put up and go through something that’s traumatised them.
"Often their lives have been blown apart and they have a right to be respected and listened to and be believed.”
The Baroness said that a major benefit of the unit was the way it pulled together local services and that when a victim is referred to an agency, checks are made to ensure that contact was made and help has been given.
“To have this crutch it helps victims to go through a system which is very clinical and very brutal at times but if we can help victims to get out of bed and feel healthier the next day it shows that the work of this unit is very important,” she said.
She also praised the role PCCs are playing in this new era of victims services provision.
“It’s early days and police and crime commissioners have a huge remit, it’s not an easy job to do, and I am very positive to hear that (in Devon and Cornwall) victims are getting the services that they deserve,” she said.
“Whatever penny or pound the PCCs spend it has to be worth to the victims and if you are getting good feedback from victims it means it’s working.
“It is very important that we have units like this. Police and crime commissioners are challenging on a national level that we need to do it (provide victim services) better and by recognising good practice we can go out there and do this for victims.”
Since launching on April 1 this year, the VCU has already helped more than 600 people and has referred nearly 800 for additional support from the network.
The network also acts as an additional gateway to support those who choose not to report a crime.
“We have been exceptionally pleased with the tremendous amount of positive feedback we have received over the last six months,” said VCU manager Aimee Williams
“Victims benefit from a service that now directly addresses their specific needs, regardless of the crime type. We can make sure that they receive the best possible help at the time they need it most.”
On Friday, Baroness Newlove will meet VCU staff and many of the service providers who will explain why the referral system is so effective.
"It is important to listen to victims to establish what help they may need when delivering victims' services - and this valuable service does just that,” said Baroness Newlove
"The Victim Care Service has already helped hundreds of victims of crime, providing bespoke advice and assistance through a wide and varied network of organisations and charities.
"No two victims are the same, so the support they receive must be tailored to meet their individual needs."
Examples of the positive feedback received since the new service launched include:
“Your service is amazing and you need to be more known about. It is nice to know there is something out there.”
“I feel better already just because you are listening to me.”
“The past can’t be changed but I cannot tell you how support from your agency has given me a chance to go forward, even if it’s just one task at a time, one day at a time until I get some real sleep and find my peace again.”
If you would like to learn more about the Victim Care Unit and the support it provides, you can do so by visiting their website here >