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Sexual Assault Referral Centres

Volume 405: debated on Friday 16 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what direct financial support the Home Office gives to each of the sexual assault referral centres in England and Wales; [110728](2) whether it is Home Office policy that local police authorities should share in the costs of

(a) establishing and (b) running sexual assault referral centres; and whether there has been a budget allocated to a police area for such a project; [110725]

(3) what Home Office policy is on whether sexual assault referral centres should be partly financed as to (a) capital setup costs and (b) running costs by primary care trusts; and what liaison he has with the Department of Health about such projects; [110724]

(4) what Home Office guidelines there are to assist in the establishment of policies and procedures for sexual assault referral centres; [110723]

(5) what policy the Home Office has to encourage the establishment of sexual assault referral centres in England and Wales; [110727]

(6) how many sexual assault referral centres there are in England and Wales; and how they are financed. [110729]

The Home Office is currently considering ways in which further support can be provided to victims of sexual crime. Possibilities under consideration include the use of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs); rape crisis and other counselling and support services; national or local telephone helplines; and some combination of these. The Home Office will consider with the Department of Health and other government departments how best to take these complex issues forward.We believe there are currently at least six SARCs in England and Wales. Funding for these has been negotiated and agreed locally. For example, the pioneer SARC, St. Mary's Centre in Manchester, is funded jointly by the Greater Manchester Police and the Central Manchester and Children's University Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Trust. The two REACH Centres in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland are jointly funded by Northumbria Police, the four local health authorities, and six local authorities.At present, no agreed process and criteria exist for the funding or setting up of SARCs and no Home Office guidance has been published on these matters. Most SARCs are currently jointly funded by the police and local health authorities, and neither the Home Office (except as outlined below) nor the Department of Health has allocated specific funding for SARCs.The Home Office has, however, provided some direct funding to certain SARCs. The Crime Reduction Programme (CRP) Violence against Women Initiative (VAWI) is an evidence-led programme which aims to find out which approaches and practices are effective in supporting victims and reducing incidents of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. As part of this programme, some funding was allocated to three existing SARCs (St. Mary's in Manchester, REACH in Newcastle and STAR in West Yorkshire) to enable them to implement additional interventions to help support victims of rape and to improve their services. The funding was provided in July 2002 up to the end of March 2003.The Home Office commissioned Professor Liz Kelly from London Metropolitan University to evaluate the contribution of these three established SARCs towards supporting victims of rape and sexual assault and reducing attrition in the criminal justice system. An overview of the research is due to be published in the autumn of 2003. The Home Office will take Professor Kelly's findings into consideration when looking at ways in which further support can be provided to victims of sexual crime.At a recent seminar we discussed with the Department of Health a range of issues around service for sexual assault victims, including SARCs. We plan to discuss further.