In March 2015, it was announced five key new support services providing enhanced and specialist care to victims of crime would start work in Merseyside on April 1st, 2015.
These services are designed to address the gaps in the services that existed on Merseyside and deliver a new approach to supporting victims.
Amongst the service is a new pan-Merseyside Child Sexual Exploitation service offering a complete package of care from prevention right through to counselling and an improved service to victims of sexual offences.
The range of new services were announced in February by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy when she invited charities and organisations across Merseyside to bid to deliver them. They all started work at the beginning of April as the Commissioner takes responsibility for local support services from the Ministry of Justice.
To prepare for this significant change, Jane’s team, led by her then Deputy and Victims’ Champion Cllr Ann O’Byrne, carried out a six-month research and mapping exercise to review the existing support services on offer in the region, explore what services victims needed and identify gaps in provision.
Find out more about the Victims' Research Programme.
This research highlighted some key areas where support for vulnerable victims was limited, with some people not getting the help and support they need to cope with the after-effects of crime.
Ann said: “The Ministry of Justice passed responsibility for the commissioning of local support services to Police and Crime Commissioners because they wanted services to be tailored according to local need.
“This was a major change and a huge amount of work went into making sure we got it right. We quickly identified that there were some services that were vitally needed, but worryingly weren’t on offer to all victims across the whole of Merseyside. This meant some vulnerable victims were just not getting the support they needed and deserved.
“We used this opportunity to speak to victims across the region, as well as organisations who work with victims and our partners, to find out what people in our communities need.
“Victims – particularly victims of the most damaging crimes like Child Sexual Exploitation, domestic abuse and sexual offences - should be at the centre of everything we do, they should never be left wanting.
“We completely reviewed what’s right for our communities in 2015 and came up with a fresh approach, rather than simply continuing with what already existed.
“Supporting victims will always be mine and Jane’s priority and I believe these new services will help to deliver the care and support survivors need to recover and rebuild their lives. I am confident that they will make a real difference to vulnerable people.”
Victim Support Services
A service for Vulnerable Victims – provided by Victim Support
This emotional and practical support service will be available to victims of any crime, according to need, to help them cope and recover. This will include support in person and over the telephone providing an accessible advice, advocacy and support service. As well as offering emotional and practical support, this service will help empower victims and develop their understanding and confidence in the criminal justice system.
Where necessary, this service will also refer victims to specialist support services and work closely with the wider network of providers.
The support will be available to all victims of crime, irrespective of whether they have reported the incident to the police, and victims will be prioritised in accordance with the Victims Code of Practice.
Find out more about Victim Support
Child Sexual Exploitation Support Service – provided by Catch 22
Findings from the team’s evidence review indicated the need for a specific service dedicated to support victims of Child Sexual Exploitation and enhance the service currently being provided.
This service will work with young people aged 12 to 18, with the aim of providing intensive support and protection to those youngsters already affected. This includes working with their families to enable them to cope, as well as ensuring that young people feel they have a voice. Children affected by exploitation will have a dedicated project worker who will help identify all the issues that need to be addressed and support them on the road to recovery.
Ann said: “Child sexual exploitation devastates lives. With Merseyside Police, I am committed to preventing this crime wherever possible and pursuing any perpetrators. But, when it does happen, our young people deserve to receive the best possible care and support and this new service is vital if we are to help young victims recover and rebuild their lives.”
Find out more about Catch 22
Sexual Offences support service – jointly provided by RASA and RASASC
During the commissioning process, gaps were identified in the provision of services supporting victims of sexual offences, including counselling, information sharing and awareness raising among the public.
As a result, this service provided by two of Merseyside’s most well established providers will address these gaps by providing an ‘end to end’ accessible service, providing effective care and support to protect the health and well-being of victims.
Find out more about RASA and RASASC
Domestic abuse service for young people – provided by Listening Ear
The team’s review strongly demonstrates that children and young people are often hidden or forgotten victims of domestic abuse and it can have significant long-term consequences.
This service will offer counselling and therapeutic support, workshops on self-esteem and confidence, awareness-raising of healthy relationships, provision of outreach workers and referrals to other specialist services.
It is hoped this service will improve the mental health, self-esteem and personal control of young victims and help them cope and recover effectively.
This funding is in addition to more than £200,000 already committed by the Commissioner to enhance the provision of the Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) service for victims of domestic abuse.
Find out more about Listening Ear
Hate Crime Advocacy Service – provided by the Anthony Walker Foundation
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has already funded Stop Hate UK to provide a 24/7 independent helpline for all victims of hate crime, but through the research programme it was identified that further services were needed to assist and support victims and ensure that they receive the tailored support they need. The review also helped identify interventions and approaches that are effective in supporting victims.
This advocacy service will include, among other things, visibility and outreach work to improve public awareness of hate crime and the support available, an integrated service from the point of contact through to resolution and support to victims, including advice and guidance, referral and counselling.
Find out more about the Anthony Walker Foundation
This advocacy service will be supported by a pan-Merseyside pilot of a support service for high-risk victims of Hate Crime and ASB - provided by Light for Life.
Southport-based charity Light for Life will work alongside the Anthony Walker Foundation to deliver a complementary service to high-risk victims of ASB and Hate Crime.
This service, which includes the provision of 'Arc Angel' devices, is based on the well-established ‘Victims’ Champions’ service they already deliver in Sefton and will be expanded as a pan-Merseyside pilot.
As part of this initiative, pocket-sized Arc Angel devices, which have microphones and a GPS tracker, will be issued to vulnerable victims of Hate Crime to allow them immediate emergency access to services 24/7, providing security and reassurance.
Find out more about Light for Life
Progress Report for 15/16
During 2015/16, these victims' services supported more than 5,500 vulnerable people.
More than 2,500 victims of sexual offences and abuse were helped by RASA and RASASC. Of those that used the services, nearly half provided feedback forms; 100% said they were happy with the service they received; 95% of people using RASA’s service said they had a better understanding of their situation and knew how to handle it, while 83% of people accessing RASASC’s services said it had helped them recover from trauma.
More than 1,200 people accessed the vulnerable victims’ service provided by Victim Support, with more than 650 support sessions being delivered. Nearly half of those sessions were delivered by volunteers, dedicated people who have contributed 1,200 hours to the service over the last 12 months.
Young people are often the hidden or forgotten victims of domestic abuse, but over the last year more than 400 young people who have witnessed violence and abuse in the home have been supported by Listening Ear. The number of referrals has increased significantly over the 12 months and I am sure this service will continue to help a growing number of vulnerable young people.
Our Hate Crime Advocacy Service has received nearly 950 referrals in the first year alone, with 630 of those cases successfully being contacted with an offer of support within 48 hours. In 78 of those cases the victim was visited at home or at work. In support of this service, 137 high risk victims also received a personal visit from Light for Life.
Catch22 have also been providing intensive 1-1 support for more than 70 young people who have been affected by Child Sexual Exploitation, whilst also carrying out extensive awareness-raising training across the region. They have spoken to nearly 1,400 young people at schools, youth clubs, pupil referral units and specialist centres to encourage them to be alert to the signs of exploitation and increase knowledge of what to do if they believe they are in a vulnerable position.
Nearly 900 professionals, from social workers to youth workers to residential support workers and teachers, have also received training from Catch22 on how to spot the tell-tale warning signs of CSE.
The last year has also seen the new approach to victims become embedded within Merseyside Police. This new system for referrals has been closely monitored throughout the year. Representative PCSOs from each area have now been selected to form a group of “champions” who have, in turn, developed a meaningful, informative yet accessible training package which has been distributed to Patrol and CID officers.
Read the full End of Year Performance report for Victim Care Merseyside 2015/16 here.
Getting it right
As the commissioned services for 2015/16 became embedded, they were subject to rigorous management reporting requirements led by the Deputy Police Commissioner, Cllr Sue Murphy. This allowed her to work with Merseyside Police and the service providers to further develop the care that was being provided. The lessons learnt during 2015 will allow her to continue to improve victims’ services for 2016.
Throughout 2015/16, the Commissioner's team also held monthly meetings with the lead staff from each of Merseyside’s Community Safety Partnerships to help inform my decisions and in turn get their input and feedback on how the services were working. The views of the wider Merseyside Community Safety Partnership and Merseyside Criminal Justice Board were also sought.