Herts Beacon welcomes Victims' Commissioner's latest report
Hertfordshire Victim Care Centre, Beacon welcomes a report from the Victim’s Commissioner which recommends a single point of contact for those needing support as a victim of crime.
The report, entitled ‘What works in supporting victims of crime’, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Baroness Newlove called on criminal justice agencies to consider evidence to explore the best options in supporting those accessing victim support services.
A recommendation was made for a single point of contact – a trained professional liaising with victims on a one to one basis, referring to appropriate support services and assisting victims in making informed decisions about their rights and entitlements to aid coping and recovery. Streamlining to just one contact for victims it is hoped will create a victim-focused working ethic to make the process easier in their time of need.
Here in Hertfordshire, the county’s Victim Care Centre Beacon has made significant steps towards implementing a streamlined service to do just exactly that. The centre, which was launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire in April 2015 is jointly run by the charity Victim Support and Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Victim Service Team to make contact with all victims of crime, regardless of whether the crime itself has been reported to police.
For those that do report a crime, the centre currently can provide updates on investigations, so victims can easily keep abreast of progression of their case. The centre’s hotline and website (www.hertfordshirebeacon.org ) offers a means of accessing services and support, even when the matter has not been reported to police or a victim has changed their minds on the opportunity for support at the time of the incident.  The service also has the option of remaining confidential for those not wishing for police involvement.
The Victims’ Commissioner report also makes further recommendations to improve victims services which include providing timely timely and accurate information to cope with the impact of victimisation; delivering a quality service to ensure victims receive the information and services they are entitled to and, developing a multi-agency approach to heighten efficiency, offer effective prevention strategies and encourage victims to remain engaged with the criminal justice process.
The report’s recommendations are very much in line with the victim centric focus of Hertfordshire Victim Care Centre Beacon, which recently marks its first full year in operation. Statistics covering its launch in April 2015 to February 2016 indicate some 52’0000 victims in Hertfordshire have been already engaged with the service to be offered both practical and emotional support as a victim of crime.  Having one name and one number to call regardless of the enquiry allows queries to be signposted effectively and creates minimal stress and time wasted for users.

The aim over time is to have a representative from each agency housed within the Beacon hub, or alternatively a direct communication channel with a true single point of contact –shared conversations between agencies without the victim having to recount endless times what has happened to them or how they feel.
Heads of Victims Commissioning Kevin McGetrick said: “The Criminal Justice System can be a complex, daunting and intimidating experience for some, with a number of agencies involved in bringing a crime and subsequent prosecution to a conclusion. This can involve in the most complex of cases over 17 Criminal Justice professionals having contact with a victim.
“Having just one point of contact undoubtedly reduces the stress and anxiety of being a victim, and over the past year we’ve developed Beacon with this in mind. This latest reports cements the progress we have made and confirms our intention to keep victims at the core of what we do in Hertfordshire. “
Appointed in March 2013, the Victims’ Commissioner’s role is to promote the interests of victims and witnesses; encourage good practice in the treatment of victims and witnesses and keep under review the operation of the Code of Practice for Victims. Find out more about her work at http://victimscommissioner.org.uk/