Evaluation of the Street Crime Initiative: supporting victims and witnesses of street crime: a joined-up approach
Summary of findings
Victim Support is the independent national charity for people affected by crime. We provide a free and confidential service, whether or not a crime has been reported and regardless of when it happened. Staff and volunteers in local branches in the community offer emotional support, practical help and information to victims, their families and friends. Victim Support also provides the Witness Service in criminal courts to give information and support to witnesses, victims, their families and friends when they go to court.
The Government's Street Crime Initiative (SCI) began in March 2002 with the aim of cutting street crime in the ten worst affected areas. Improved partnership working between statutory agencies was the main driver of the initiative.
From July 2002 Victim Support was given funding to enhance its service to victims and witnesses of street crime (robbery, theft by snatch and car-jacking) by working more closely with other agencies to promote a joined-up approach between agencies. The funding covered the period up to March 2003.
In order to explore the experiences of victims and witnesses as part of the SCI and to learn lessons to inform effective practice, surveys were undertaken with service users and service providers of Victim Support and the Witness Service. This report presents these findings and makes recommendations for improving services in the future.
Surveys covering funding issues and service provision were sent out to all Victim Support Areas and London boroughs1 covered by the SCI. (A list of these is given in the Appendix.) Postal surveys were sent to users of Victim Support during January and February 2003. The Witness Service distributed surveys to users over a two-week period during July 2003.
- The majority (81%) of service users had been able to talk to someone in confidence about their experience. Of those who received this service 82% thought it was 'useful'.
- Based solely on their experience with the Witness Service, 57% of respondents thought that they would be 'more likely' to attend court again, and 31% as 'likely' to attend court again. Eighty eight per cent of users would therefore be likely to attend court in the future based on their experience with the Witness Service.
- Where a witness had become distressed after the trial, the Witness Service referred them to their local Victim Support service in the community or other relevant agency.
- The barriers to establishing effective working relationships included: lack of communication between agencies; data protection issues; limited understanding of the role of the Witness Service; and the competing demands of each agency's performance measures.
Findings from the Victim Support and Witness Service providers' funding survey
- Half of the respondents found the initial process of getting information about funding difficult.
- The majority of respondents felt that the overall process of getting funding could be improved.
- Many felt that short-term funding creates problems with future planning of staff posts and sustainability.
Victim Support service providersWorking with other agencies
- Service providers' experience of working in partnership with other agencies was variable.
- Many felt that data protection issues restricted their work and resulted in referral details not being given.
- In some instances local protocols had been arranged, but there was failure to communicate this within criminal justice agencies, so not all staff were aware of the protocols' existence.
- Victim Support's services were not always fully understood by other agencies.
- Victim Support service providers felt that other agencies were more focused on achieving their performance targets than meeting the needs of victims.
- The SCI has enabled early engagement with victims, often on the same day as the police received details.
- Many service providers made sure that the initial contact with the victim was by 'phone.
- All service providers undertook home visits when needed by the victim.
- Where required, all Victim Support service providers told the victim of the service offered by the Witness Service, promoting the aim of a seamless service.
- The SCI encouraged local variations in service provision to ensure that delivery was targeted at local need.
- The barriers identified by service providers included: victim referrals with missing or incorrect contact details; a shortage of volunteers; and data protection difficulties. Most worrying were a reported lack of knowledge about Victim Support and the Witness Service among criminal justice agencies and sometimes a lack of willingness to engage.
Witness Service providersWorking with other criminal justice agencies
- Most service providers said that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) 'always' supplied the necessary information about witnesses.
- Service providers found that they were rarely informed of the specific concerns a witness may have about attending court. It is not apparent whether the referring agency might not have known about the concerns, or did know and did not pass the information on.
- The majority of service providers thought that agencies were working together better to promote the needs of victims and witnesses as a result of the SCI.
- Pre-trial visits were offered to all witnesses before the day of the trial where contact details were provided by the referring agency.
- Where contact had not been made before the trial date, service providers sought to make contact on the day.
- The barriers to provision included: a lack of information from the CPS and police; not receiving prior notification of trials and witnesses' details; and police failure to identify vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.
Victim Support services in the community: usersProvision of information and support
- Eighty seven per cent of users received information about the services supplied by Victim Support.
- Only 10% (four people) received no information with half of these users feeling it would have helped.
- Seventy four per cent found Victim Support's information about police procedures 'useful'. None thought the information provided was 'not useful'.
- Half of those who responded received crime prevention advice with 64% finding it 'useful'.
- Ninety seven per cent of respondents were 'satisfied' with the overall service they received from Victim Support.
- One hundred per cent of users felt their volunteer was supportive of their needs.
- Eighty five per cent stated that they would use the service again.
- Eight seven per cent said they would recommend the service to someone else.
- A small number of users (14% or five people) felt that more could have been done. This included the availability of volunteers with different language skills.
The Witness Service: usersContact with the Witness Service
- Contact before the trial date was made with 54% of witnesses.
- In the majority of cases (52%) the Witness Service personally greeted the witness on the day of the trial.
- Ninety five per cent of users found that making contact with the Witness Service was 'easy'.
- Eighty six per cent of witnesses had a separate room to wait in before the trial began. This was considered important by 87%.
- The majority of witnesses (92%) received information from the Witness Service about court procedures and found this information 'useful'.
- Eighty two per cent of witnesses were accompanied into the courtroom by a volunteer.
- Ninety six per cent of respondents were 'satisfied' with the overall service they received from the Witness Service.
- Ninety eight per cent said their volunteer supported their needs.
- The majority (93%) of users said that if the need arose they would contact the Witness Service in the future.
- Ninety seven per cent said that they would recommend the service to someone else.
Please also see the conclusions and recommendations in the main part of the report.
1. Victim Support's services in the community and in court (the Witness Service) are organised into 'Areas', generally along county lines, which operate as independent charities affiliated to the National Association of Victims Support Schemes (the National Association). In London, community-based services and Magistrates' Court Witness Services are managed by Victim Support charities organised along borough lines. Witness Services in the Crown Court in London are managed directly by the National Office.