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Don't Let Innocent Victims Suffer Twice

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One of the most inspirational things about my job is hearing back from the people Victim Support help. Sheila, the mother of a young woman who tragically died after being violently assaulted by her boyfriend recently told me: "Without Victim Support I would have died. I went to them after it happened and had over 12 solid months of counselling. If I had not had this help I would not be here now."

Sheila's words say it all when it comes to highlighting how important it is for victims and witnesses of crime to be given the right level of professional support after their ordeal. Without this support, innocent victims will needlessly suffer twice - once through the crime and again when we leave them alone to cope with the after effects.

This week Victim Support responded to the government's consultation document Getting it right for victims and witnesses - and as the national charity for victims and witnesses we had a lot to say.

The Ministry of Justice's proposals are bold and contain some good ideas. But we are very concerned about one key plan: for the new police and crime commissioners to organise and fund virtually all help for victims and witnesses.

This would mean patchy local services rather than the current national backbone of support.

At least £21m of help for victims could be wasted by police and crime commissioners on extra paper pushing and form filling. And even by the government's own estimate the costs of this form-filling would mean the loss of intensive support for 25,000 victims of domestic violence, support for 20,000 victims of antisocial behaviour, the installation of 15,000 home alarm kits for victims of burglary and100,000 personal alarms given to victims of personal or street crime.

It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel by asking police and crime commissioners to buy-in services for victims. Victim Support has been successfully giving help to victims and witnesses for nearly 40 years. It is simply unacceptable that they could lose out on support to the value of £21m because of additional red tape and paper pushing.

We think the government's plans for victims and witnesses are unworkable, damaging and dangerous.

Getting it right for victims and witnesses should be about putting their needs at the heart of changes, not making proposals which have the potential to abandon them when they are at their most vulnerable.

What would have happened if Sheila had not been able to access the full support she needed? Would she and her family have coped with such a traumatic ordeal without that extra help?

These shortsighted plans will affect real people in a massive way.

If you want to persuade the government to rethink its plans for victims and witnesses you can sign our e-petition - and help to ensure everyone continues to get the support they need - without wasting taxpayers' money.

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