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National Victims' Service

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010

Statement

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On behalf of the Home Secretary, the Attorney-General and myself, I am today announcing details of the new National Victims’ Service as the next stage of reforms aimed at ensuring the justice system is firmly on the side of the law abiding citizen. Its aim will be to provide clear, universal entitlements to all victims of crime and to the most vulnerable.

The £8 million National Victims’ Service guarantees victims of crime and anti-social behaviour referred from the police more comprehensive and dedicated support. The service will be rolled out in two phases, beginning in March, helping families bereaved by murder or manslaughter, and will provide intensive support, care and attention, tailored to their individual needs, beyond the conclusion of any investigation or trial. Each person will be given a named, dedicated support worker, who will meet with them regularly to identify their needs and liaise with the authorities on their behalf. The individual may need immediate practical assistance—for example with security, or childcare, or making bill payments—and will be helped through all of this.

Emotional support and expert assistance will also be offered where needed—counselling, for instance, or legal and financial advice. This support will not stop when the criminal justice process comes to a conclusion.

From 1 April we will begin to roll out the National Victims’ Service for all victims of crime across England and Wales.

The most vulnerable victims will be entitled to:

fast contact to establish their support needs, seven days a week;

a one-to-one caseworker responsible for pulling together public sector agencies and third sector providers to respond to their needs, across housing, health, employment, social services and other areas; and

quick referral to—and/or the commissioning of —specialist support from other agencies and third sector organisations when needed.

In addition, all victims of crime who are in need of specific assistance no matter where they live or what offence committed against them will receive a better service targeted to their needs. They will be entitled to:

immediate emotional support from a trained support worker;

an in-depth health check of their practical, emotional, health, security and housing needs;

an individually tailored support plan;

support not just 9 to 5, but seven days a week; and

tailored information about what is likely to happen in their case, and practical advice.

From July this year, all victims of crime who need it will also be entitled to a caseworker who will guide them through the criminal justice process and give them help and assistance as long as they need it.

This provision will be complementary to the work which the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) do already in support of victims and bereaved victims. Following the implementation of the 1999 Lawrence inquiry report, a comprehensive national system of police family liaison officers has been in place in homicide cases, which has proved very effective and helpful.

Prosecutors can also now speak to victims and witnesses directly, something unheard of and indeed once prohibited. The CPS has consolidated this by providing targeted support to the community through the introduction of community prosecutors.

The new National Victims’ Service is a key part of the Government’s wider strategy to protect core public services which the public depend on, while at the same time making them more personalised to meet individuals’ needs. Today’s announcement also builds on the wide range of measures the Government have introduced over the past 13 years for victims of crime, including a victims’ champion, victim personal statements, a victims’ advisory panel and the trebling of funding for victims’ services in the voluntary sector.

The establishment of the National Victims’ Service is another key milestone in rebalancing the criminal justice service. It will make sure that victims across England and Wales are given consistent personal support throughout the criminal justice process and beyond. If victims need help, we will continue to be there for them—for as long as they need it.

Copies of The National Victims Service: An initial response to the Victims Champion’s report document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies of the document will also be available on the Criminal Justice System website at www.cjsonline.gov.uk.