Support victims and witnesses
One of my most important tasks as PCC is to provide a platform for the interests of victims and witnesses of crime. From my first Police and Crime Plan, it has been my pledge to put victims first, regardless of where they live, their age, gender/identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or their offending history. Becoming a victim of crime can have a huge impact on an individual. The effects can be mental as well as physical, and can be felt by a victim’s family, friends, and their wider communities.
We support victims and witnesses in a number of ways; through commissioned services; through the strategic work of the OPCC’s Victims Advisor; through important partnership forums such as the LCJB Victims and Witnesses Group and the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Board; and through our grants to valuable district and community projects delivered through the Safer Communities Fund. It has been particularly important to recognise the increased demand for services (and the stresses placed on providers) during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I have pledged to support our commissioned services through this challenging time.
I am proud of the progress that has been made in improving support services for victims and survivors since I was elected as PCC; most notably through my commissioning of the West Yorkshire-wide Victim Support service, our joint-work with other key partners to deliver the new Sexual Assault Referral Centre facility for adults and children, and in 2020, we achieved an important milestone by publishing ‘Supporting People Harmed by Crime’, the first ever victims and witnesses strategy for West Yorkshire.
We continue to raise awareness of the victim services that are available, and emphasise that people do not need to report a crime to the police to be able to access them. The third/voluntary sector plays a vital role in delivering many of these services. My Third Sector Advisory Group and networking events allow me to consult with its local representatives, and listen to the sector’s concerns. As our new strategy outlines, I want to see victim services which are tailored to individuals’ needs, which consider any additional vulnerabilities a person may have, and which are particularly aware of the needs of children and young people. I want to see victims and survivors have more input into the design and delivery of the services that support them, be they provided by local authorities, charities, or our own commissioned services.
In my oversight of West Yorkshire Police, I recognise the crucial role they play as the first point of contact for many victims, and I monitor victim satisfaction with the police’s service through my usual accountability structures. I also assess the police and partner agencies’ compliance with the MoJ’s Victim’s Code and Witness Charter through the LCJB Victims and Witnesses Group, and I will support the application of the Victims Code, and the work to build its 12 rights into a ‘Victims Law’.
How we will deliver
- Listening to people. Hearing the voices of victims and survivors, learning from their experiences, and using their feedback to improve services for all victims of all crimes.
- Understanding our communities. Undertaking continuous needs assessment and putting people at the heart of the delivery of our victims strategy, especially those communities who in the past have not accessed support.
- Working together. Engaging with wider partners on these issues through the PCC’s partnership structures; the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB), Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) and other forums. This will include delivering the requirements of the revised Victims Code.
- Preventing and intervening earlier. Supporting all organisations across public, private and third sectors to develop innovative ways to identify and encourage victims and survivors to come forward sooner. A good example of this has been the development of restorative justice services.
- Improving our services. Monitoring the performance of all recipients of OPCC funding, whether this is through grants or direct commissioning. All will be expected to provide progress reports against agreed performance measures which identify good practice and areas for additional focus.
- Providing resources. Commissioning services for victims, witnesses and survivors with a focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable at different points in their journey.