Evaluation of the Street Crime Initiative: supporting victims and witnesses of street crime: a joined-up approach
6. Conclusions and recommendations
The SCI provided a 'premium service' to victims and witnesses of street crime by ring-fencing funding to be spent specifically to improve the service they receive. The levels of user satisfaction achieved by both Victim Support and the Witness Service shows that overall the initiative has been successful in meeting the needs of victims and witnesses.
This chapter looks at the specific issues that arose around funding, service delivery and provision, and user experiences.
The main issue for service providers was the confused and protracted funding process at the start of the SCI. Funding applications were first made directly to the Home Office. This was then changed to Victim Support's National Office. This resulted in delays in implementation for all of the projects and was particularly problematic for those who wanted to employ full-time staff over a specific contractual period. Despite this the majority of service providers found the funding application process relatively straightforward. Toward the end of the project period little information was made available as to future funding, making decisions about sustainability difficult.Recommendation
Lessons have already been learnt about the initial funding process. In round two of the SCI covering 2003/2004, the Home Office provided the National Office with block funding for Victim Support Areas and London boroughs to apply for. This helped the overall process, although funding was only received by the National Office at a late stage. The result was that many projects were still unsure of their future sustainability at the start of the second phase of the SCI. Where project staff have been employed, it becomes increasingly important that the availability of funding is made clear at the earliest opportunity. This allows for future planning, and where necessary exit strategies to be implemented to ensure that the effective practices learnt are not lost if funding ceases.
Service delivery and provision
An aim of the SCI was to promote the seamless service between Victim Support and the Witness Service. The projects that were most able to achieve this were those which employed a project co-ordinator. This was dependant upon the amount of funding received and in some cases was hampered by the funding issues mentioned above.Recommendation
If future sustainable funding is made available, projects should endeavour to employ a dedicated co-ordinator.
6.2 Victim Support
The majority of service providers found that they were able to implement the SCI provisions successfully, although specific barriers were apparent. The main problems were:
- the initial unwillingness of other agencies to engage with Victim Support
- data protection issues preventing victims' details being provided (although this was not experienced across all project areas).
One of the main aims of the SCI was to encourage and facilitate a joined-up working approach to providing services to victims and witnesses. Where this has been difficult it shows that more work is required in some areas to promote the importance of the service and to seek channels that allow this to be achieved. These include greater participation in crime and disorder reduction partnerships and more involvement in local criminal justice boards, which will help to facilitate this. There is however only so much that Victim Support can do. Much responsibility will lie with other agencies informing and educating their staff about the role of Victim Support, and ensuring that decisions and protocols about the sharing of information are effectively disseminated.
6.3 Witness Service
As with Victim Support, the Witness Service was able to implement the SCI provisions successfully. The problems that occurred mirrored those of Victim Support where witnesses' details were not always accurate or forwarded in time for pre-trial visits to be organised. The experience of one user pre-trial (see page 27) may be explained by the sometimes poor referral details supplied before the trial, highlighting the importance of information sharing between Victim Support and the Witness Service. Providers felt that much of this was a result of other agencies not understanding the importance of the service.Recommendation
The recommendations to overcome this are identical to those above. Victim Support and the Witness Service are not separate agencies and their needs should not therefore be treated as such. Victim Support Area and London borough managers have responsibility for both18 and should ensure that other agencies are made aware of the importance of effective information sharing and agreement of protocols.
An important finding from the surveys sent to Victim Support service users is the need for more volunteers with language skills or interpreters to be available. One service user stated that, if the need arose, they would only use the service in the future if an interpreter were available, as English was not their first language.Recommendation
Victim Support embraces diversity and tries to ensure that its services are accessible to everyone who needs them. Although there is a strong volunteer base, more representatives from the black and minority ethnic community with the required language skills are needed in some areas. The police are able to use interpreters when they need to. However, the provision of interpreters within Victim Support depends on resources and can only be addressed when funding is made available to do so.
The funding made available through the SCI was very welcome and appreciated by both service providers and service users. Service providers and volunteers felt that the selection of victims and witnesses for a 'premium service' by crime type rather than on the basis of need was in principle difficult. They want to be in a position to extend the same provision to all victims and witnesses regardless of the type of crime they experienced, so that the highest level of service is available to all victims and witnesses.
This evaluation demonstrates a high level of user satisfaction with Victim Support and the Witness Service. It finds that high quality support provided before, during and after the court appearance has a significant impact on witnesses' ability to give their best evidence. It also demonstrates that, in the unfortunate event of them being the victim of or witness to a crime again, the provision of effective support greatly increases their willingness to attend court again.