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'Sometimes the simplest of investments can make a profound difference to people’s lives' - says commissioner

'Sometimes the simplest of investments can make a profound difference to people’s lives' - says commissioner

Sometimes the simplest of investments can make a profound difference to people’s lives. An example of a window restraint that reassured a child that bad people couldn’t get into his room was given in the House of Commons as our bid for funding for those affected by the Keyham shooting was discussed.

The child in question is now able to sleep soundly because of this small but important piece of equipment. So I was delighted when Policing Minister Kit Malthouse told the house that the monies requested by my office to support that community had been approved in full.

My office, leading a partnership effort involving Plymouth City Council and Devon and Cornwall Police, had requested £271,000 from the Ministry of Justice. That money will pay for a range of services, while another funding stream, of £800,000, will be invested into community safety and policing to help rebuild confidence and reassure people that Keyham is a safe place to live, work, play and go to school.

The Government also said it will fund an additional 130 spaces for local mental health services and talks are under way to give additional support to children through schools.

It is estimated that 300 people witnessed the shootings, many of them children. It will be some time before we truly understand the impact.

The team who put the bids together drew ministers’ attention to a report from the charity Victim Support entitled Responding to Terror Attacks, it shows that trauma from a major incident can remain within a community long after the initial interest impact has faded away.

Most support required for victims and witnesses of major incidents is longer term, with 53% needing support for between two and six months, and 20% for even longer. The charity also found that needs change over time, for example those needing relationship support, increased 167% in the second month compared to the first month after the incident. This supports the research conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2000) in Washington which clearly demonstrates the longer-term impact of trauma.

I have responsibility for victims’ services in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and this money means I can ensure that expert services such as counselling for traumatised children and a telephone helpline are put in place without the need for anyone to join a waiting list.

This last point is important because in the past two years demand for victim services in our part of the world has grown hugely. The Devon and Cornwall Victim Care Unit, which provides practical and emotional help and support to victims of crime here, has seen marked increases in people reaching out to it for help over the last 24 months. In July 2019 the service supported 796 victims. By June 2021 monthly requests had increased by 190%, to 2,310 victims.

While recorded crime rates have fallen over the same period this is a positive step forward as it means a greater proportion of people are aware of some of the services on offer and are actively seeking them out. However, it does mean that we required additional resources to deal with a significant and traumatic event like the devastating Keyham shooting.

My office is working with Plymouth MPs, the city council, the police and the NHS to ensure that these efforts are co-ordinated and funded. Meanwhile there has been an incredible and heartening response from around the world in response to the shooting, with fundraising effort that will support local projects, groups and activities in the area. If you want to offer support and help plenty of information on the fundraising efforts and the partners is available at www.plymouthtogether.co.uk.

I was heartened by the incredible community response since this tragedy and the fact that the Government has listened to our arguments, read the evidence and moved swiftly to help this community recover. Together we will ensure that more children in Keyham are able to sleep soundly.

If you have been a victim of crime and would like practical and emotional help and advice contact Victim Support on 0808 168 9111 or visit victimsupport.org.uk.