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Sexual Violence

Volume 487: debated on Monday 9 February 2009

2. What assessment she has made of the adequacy of services for victims of sexual violence; and if she will make a statement. (254637)

The Government are extending the network of sexual assault referral centres and independent sexual violence advisers so that all victims will be able to access those services over the next three years. We have also invested £11 million in specialist support services.

I welcome the substantial progress that has been made through SARCs and independent sexual violence advisers, but has the Minister read the “Map of Gaps” report produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the End Violence Against Women campaign, which shows that in one in four local authorities there is no specialist service for a survivor of sexual violence, and that that is particularly a problem in the east and south-east of England? Does he have a plan to deal with that?

We welcome the publication of “Map of Gaps,” although we believe that it does not give a complete picture of statutory provision or of the work of some voluntary organisations. We agree with the publication that more needs to be done, and more will be done. We are working to see SARCs in each of the 43 police districts by 2011, but my hon. Friend will also be aware that much good and important work is done locally, and we are working with local agencies, producing guidance to ensure that commissioning of services is where it needs to be.

The Basingstoke rape and sexual abuse centre, along with many other rape crisis centres, does an excellent job to support victims. Why do the Government not do one thing that would really help those centres and adopt a three-year funding cycle, as suggested by colleagues on the Opposition Benches, to try to put an end to the financial uncertainty that so many of those crisis centres still face?

The Government provided £1 million extra this year to rape crisis centres, and I am informed that no rape crisis centre has closed since that period. We value the work of rape crisis centres and are working with local partners to see how best they can be funded, but coming from a party that will cut investment, suggesting a commitment to a three-year period is asking a lot.

Will the Minister commend the work of ChildLine, the Devon office of which recently reported a 20 per cent. increase in calls from children over the past three years? Although we know that not every call is genuine, and there can be concern about creating an atmosphere of fear, is it not right that ChildLine provides a fantastic service for children, many of whom are abused by people on whom they should be able to rely? Is it not important that they have a lifeline?