Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend welcomed services from across the county to the Surrey Police HQ in November, as organisations funded by her office came together to discuss improvements to the care that victims of crime receive.
The event is the first time that most of the chief executives and advisors from victim services in Surrey had come together in-person since before the Covid-19 pandemic. During the day, they worked with members of the Commissioner’s office to explore the challenges and opportunities that they face when supporting individuals affected by offences including sexual violence and domestic violence, modern slavery and child sexual exploitation.
Funding local services is a key part of the Commissioner’s role in Surrey, that has made over £3m available for victim services in 2023/24. Core funding from her office pays for counselling and helplines, Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and Independent Domestic Abuse Advisors, awareness campaigns and specialist support for children and young people, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities and those affected by modern slavery.
In the last year, the PCC’s team have secured additional funds from the Home Office, that have been used to set up a new ‘Steps to Change’ hub that will act as a gateway to interventions for anyone demonstrating abusive behaviours, and a landmark project of early-doors education to specifically help prevent violence against women and girls. Educating all school-age children benefits the whole of society.
The workshop included representatives from Surrey Police’s dedicated Victim and Witness Care Unit (VWCU), Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s STARS Service, Innovating Minds, East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service, North Surrey Domestic Abuse Service, South West Surrey Domestic Abuse Service, the YMCA’s What is Sexual Exploitation? (WiSE) Service, Justice and Care, the county’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) and Hourglass (safer aging).
Throughout the day, they spoke about the increasing complexity of victim care and the pressures on services to meet increasing demand for their support with limited resources.
The event also included a specific focus on how the Commissioner’s Office can help – by enabling connections between different organisations, advocating at national level and continuing a shift to funding that goes beyond a typical yearly contract.
Meg Harper from modern slavery organisation Justice and Care said short term funding made it harder to plan for the future, by risking the momentum that vital colleagues are able to build year on year.
Daisy Anderson, CEO of RASASC, said there was also a need to amplify the message that services support people of all backgrounds and needs in Surrey. Funding from the Commissioner’s Office provided 37% of RASASCs core funding in 2022/23.
The workshop follows the appointment of new Victims Commissioner Baroness Newlove this October, and comes as a new Victims and Prisoners Bill makes it way through Parliament.
Feedback from the meeting is now being analysed and will feed into plans for ensuring local organisations receive the best possible support in the new financial year.
Commissioner Lisa Townsend said: “My office funds a wide range of work by victim services in Surrey, that often work in an incredibly complicated and pressured environment to provide the best possible care to survivors.
“I am really proud of the strong partnership with the organisations we support in Surrey, but it is important that we continue to listen and identify the challenges they face. The workshop provided a forum for frank conversations across different areas of care and shared a huge wealth of knowledge with a focus on long-term solutions.
“These conversations are vital as they make a tangible difference when an individual experiences a crime. Such as knowing who they can turn to, less time waiting and support from specialists that are part of a network that looks out for them too.”
A list of support services available to victims in Surrey is available here.
Anyone affected by a crime can contact Surrey’s dedicated Victim and Witness Care Unit on 01483 639949 or visit https://victimandwitnesscare.org.uk for more information. Support and advice is available to every victim of a crime in Surrey regardless of when the offence occurred.
For further information about ‘Steps to Change’ or to discuss making a referral, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org