Working in Partnership to Support Victims of Crime
In early 2015, SSC was successful – along with some 60-70 other voluntary sector organisations – in becoming a member of the soon-to-be-launched Victim Care Network for Devon & Cornwall. A recent revision of the Code of Practice for Victims had brought additional rights, and greater flexibility, to criminal justice agencies to tailor services according to individual need. This network was established by the then Devon & Cornwall Police & Crime Commissioner, following a rigorous Needs Assessment, marking a turning point in victim care in the South West.
Ambitious in its aims and innovative in its model, this unique network and collaboration between the police and service providers has since evolved to support thousands of victims of crime across the peninsula. Services deal not only with the immediate impact of the crime but often also the underlying issues that contribute to the person’s vulnerability or means of coping. The purpose of the network is to provide a victim-led, specialist pathway of support. SSC however is unique in its position as a network within a network!
Safer Stronger: A Tailored Approach
The ‘revolving door’ of the criminal justice system is not confined to those committing offences; often victims find themselves re-victimised. In addition, the lives of the offender and victim may be intertwined, and both can face very deep-rooted and complex issues that perpetuate cycles of repeat behaviour. Within SSC, the partner organisation can bring a huge breadth of very specialist knowledge to tackle this problem, and help individuals to rise above their circumstances.
Traditional ‘talking’ therapies or one-stop shop solutions are not always the answer, and through SSC’s partnership, individuals can access a range of specialist and unique services around mental health, financial and debt management, housing, family support, young people’s services, learning difficulties, skills development such as confidence-building or communications, or one-to-one mentoring and advocacy. The support could just as easily take place in a conventional therapy setting as a quiet cafeteria or outdoor activity centre! What is most important is ensuring the individual has a say in what support they receive, so that they can return to a place of personal resilience not only to overcome the impact, but also to better cope with challenges in the future.
Working in Partnership
The probation landscape has changed dramatically since SSC was set up in 2012, and continues to change, but supporting vulnerable people within the system in true partnership remains fundamental to SSC’s existence. Since engaging in delivery of Victim Care, SSC has established and developed a responsive and evolving network of partners that work closely together to provide individualised programmes of support. All partners feature on the Victim Care Directory, the online platform offered to victims to explore service options at their own pace. The team at the Victim Care Unit in Exeter works hard to respond to initial referrals received from the police, and refers them on to a service within the network. SSC – with its diverse offer – receives referrals for those with multiple and complex needs, who may struggle to secure the help they need from a single provider. Facilitated centrally through our Victims Coordinator (hosted at SSC partner CASS PLUS), we work with each individual to develop a bespoke programme of support tailored to their needs. This may be delivered by one or more organisations, both within SSC’s partnership, as well as across the wider network and any statutory services relevant to their situation. That individual has a single point of contact at SSC throughout their programme of support, at the end of which they are invited to provide feedback on the service.
Working in partnership is not of course new in itself– voluntary sector organisations have been doing this for many years, especially at a grass-roots level. However, commissioning partnership work is a relatively recent development from a public sector point of view and with pioneering comes not only great responsibility but also significant opportunities for learning! The Victim Care model in Devon & Cornwall is an excellent example of bold innovation, and as such, the organisations involved have undertaken great learning together, supported through network events hosted by OPCC. SSC and its partners respond to this by supporting one another in delivery through peer learning, consolidated reporting and resources, and pooling expertise and knowledge, all of which is facilitated centrally by SSC.
What have we learned?
Working in partnership is not without its challenges, as one would imagine. As with any delivery, we are constantly looking at ways of improving the service we provide, whether by streamlining our collective approach to administration, updating our governance and quality assurance, or enlisting training to support service development. A partnership cannot function without consistent, strong channels of communication, which SSC delivers through network meetings, development and delivery workshops and newsletters, in addition to the day-to-day contact with colleagues across the partnership. Information is precious, and finding new ways to communicate efficiently and effectively with our colleagues and clients is continual work in progress!
With robust governance and supportive infrastructure, regular dialogue, a shared mission and set of values and a collective focus and purpose, delivering in partnership can be a powerful framework to effect positive, long-lasting change in the lives of those who need it most.