The future of services for crime victims in the North East is in doubt.
Staff at the four local Victim Support offices in the area have been given notice of redundancy as funding, for the next financial year has not been confirmed.
The national organisation, which provides vital practical and emotional support for those affected by crime, was until this year funded by central Government.
However, when elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were introduced two years ago it was decided funding decisions should be devolved to a local level, with individual PCCs taking decisions on how victim services are provided in their own force area.
And Northumbria’s Vera Baird has yet to put plans in place for when the central funding ceases at the end of March.
The PCC’s office says it is currently locked in a ‘tender and grant allocation process’ to determine the future of services..
But Victim Support staff on Tyneside have been left fearing for the future of their jobs, and the vital services they provide, until the decision is made.
An employee, who did not want to be identified, said:
“No one has made a decision about our future and we don’t know if we will still be here in two months.
“The organisation could lose a lot of very good experienced staff. This will be like victimising the victims.”
A spokeswoman at the office of the PCC said:
“Following a public consultation in 2012 on the future of victims and witnesses Services, the Government decided to devolve the design and delivery of victims services to locally elected PCCs.
“It is the first time the specific support needs of local communities have been assessed by PCCs.
“The tender and grant allocation process is continuing and at this stage it would not be appropriate to comment without prejudicing these ongoing processes and the range of charitable and voluntary organisations participating in these processes.”
Vera Baird made listening to victims and meeting their needs in her police and crime plan, after being elected.
Established in the 1970s, Victim Support is the world’s most established victim and witness support network.
It has four offices in the Northumbria Police area at Newcastle, North Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead.
Staff help victims of all types of crime, including assault and burglary, with things like counselling and claims for compensation.
“Victim Support is something people don’t think about until they need it,” said the worker.
“If we weren’t here there would be nowhere for victims of things like assault and burglary to go.
“We provide emotional support and help with claims for compensation. But sometimes people just come to us to get things off their chest.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Jan 2015