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The Government have placed victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system and given support services to them a high priority.
Since 2004 the Government have introduced the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime which gives victims legal rights to support and information about their case. It has also supported the development of Victim Support into a strong national organisation able to help more victims more quickly. Victim Support is an independent charity and is the main provider of services to victims and witnesses across England and Wales. Over recent years funding has increased from £11.7 million to £30 million. Victim Support has recently introduced an improved business process, with an additional £12.6 million from Government, so that victims can be contacted quickly, have their needs assessed and, if needed, be offered a wider range of practical services than was previously available.
In addition the Government fund a number of other organisations offering specialist support services through the Victims Fund. £8.2 million has been invested so far funding for services to victims of sexual violence, childhood sexual abuse, hate crime and homicide. The Poppy project supports adult women who have been trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation and this includes provision for temporarily accommodating victims.
The Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) has provided £5.6 million since 2007 for Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) who provide a service to victims who are at high risk of harm. The money provides IDVAS to support victims as their cases progress through specialist domestic violence courts. The £5.6 million follows £2 million of Home Office funding in 2006-07.
The recently published Youth Crime Action Plan will be improving support services to young victims of crime. The plan has been developed jointly between the OCJR, Ministry of Justice, the Department for Children Schools and Families and the Home Office. The Action Plan will deliver results on youth justice, youth crime prevention and cross cutting themes on victimisation.
Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM) receives an annual grant of £140,000 to provide advice and support to those bereaved by homicide and presents training to police forces and other statutory agencies (e.g. the Health and Safety Executive) on bereavement awareness issues.
Victims and witnesses have a voice in shaping government policy and future support services through the Victims Advisory Panel and, shortly, the appointment of a commissioner for victims and witnesses will be able to promote the views of victims and witnesses at the highest levels.