A pioneering service to help victims of crime in Northamptonshire has been launched.
Voice is a new scheme to help protect victims and witnesses of crime and to help them through the aftermath of their experiences.
It replaces Victim Support and witness services which formerly operated independently of one another in Northamptonshire.
The county is one of just seven areas in the country where police crime commissioners have been asked by the Government to take over the budget for providing their own help for those who are affected by crimes.
Northants PCC Adam Simmonds has £1.76m from Ministry of Justice and PCC coffers to pay Victim Support to run the scheme for the next three years.
Months of research has gone into talking to victims of crime about their experiences and listening to the services that they think are needed in our area.
Now specialist help including a named liaison officer, counselling and a dedicated helpline will be available to them.
Speaking at a special launch event last week, former president of the Law Society and independent chairman of Voice Linda Lee said: “I am delighted to be the first chair of Voice and have the opportunity to make a difference to the people of Northamptonshire.
“These services will provide the support victims and witnesses want rather than what other people think they want.
“My role is to ensure victims and witnesses do have a voice. I will be an independent voice. I will make sure victims and witnesses remain at the top of the agenda.”
PCC Adam Simmonds said: “Linda lives in our county and part of the reason I appointed her was because she just doesn’t take no for an answer.
“I am sure she will be robust and hold me to account. Victims of crime want someone independent to talk to, someone outside of the CPS, courts and police.
“People can self-refer to Voice even if they have not reported the crime to police.”
The scheme will pay particular attention to the needs of those targeted by persistent anti-social behaviour, victims and families of people affected by serious road collisions and victims of domestic violence who have previously had no specialist support offered to them.
Mr Simmonds said: “For people whose relatives have died in road collisions, there’s often not a criminal act that has taken place but someone has still lost their loved-one.
“Our service will provide someone that they can go to for help, advice and support.
“People like GPs will also be able to refer people to Voice.
“I would say this is the biggest thing I’ve done since coming to office as I am taking on an extra statutory obligation.”
Support for victims
Voice provides specialist support that was not previously available for victims of persistently targeted anti-social behaviour, those affected by serious and fatal road traffic collisions and victims of interpersonal violence.
They will be offered a named point of contact to liaise with directly.
This contact will also work with other criminal justice agencies to ensure victim and witness needs are met.
Victims and witnesses can contact Voice directly or be referred to the service by organisations other than the police.
In the future Voice will provide specialist support to children and young people in specific cases.
The majority of the funding comes from the Ministry of Justice, which has handed budgets to PCCs in order to take over the service provision, although some funding has come from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Northamptonshire also received a £180,000 grant from the MoJ Competed Fund.