There is a crisis on supporting victims of crime. Better support is needed, underpinned by putting victims and survivors at the heart of the justice system, and working with system partners to achieve this.
Reflecting on some of the key themes shared at the recent Victims Services Conference 2023, and the work we have done to support the development of Victim Care Hubs to date, we have outlined some key considerations for local agencies and services intending to improve victim services through the development of centralised hubs.
Understand the scope
Understanding the scale of demand for services from a victim care hub is crucial in setting up for success from the start, but there are also some fundamental scope questions that those establishing victim care hubs need to address head on.
One example is geographical spread. The service needs to have some geographical boundaries, but should it only be for victims who live within those boundaries, or only for victims of crimes committed within those boundaries – or only if both are true?
Another example is whether the service is for victims only, or for witnesses too, who can also often be considered secondary victims of certain crimes. Supporting witnesses is a crucial enabler of the criminal justice system, but extending support to them can drastically increase the number of people eligible. Making these scope decisions has a huge impact on the scale of services to be offered, the level of demand the service should expect and consequently the cost to deliver.
Integrate with other service providers
Even the most ambitious victim care hubs cannot deliver all the services that victims require. A common role for existing care hubs is signposting – providing information to victims as to where they can receive the support they need in their local area. Some of the most vulnerable victims will need referring to specialist support pathways. It is crucial that there is an effective interface between the hub and the specialist pathway, ensuring that the experience is as simple as possible for the victim. The hub must also ensure it does not close the door to victims once referred elsewhere – there must be effective feedback loops in place, enabling the hub to identify victim support issues down the line and play a proactive role as the champion of victim experience.
Make information available
The most common enquiries for victim care hubs are case updates. In a world where the public have apps to track the progress of their pizza order and shopping deliveries, there are assumptions that the care hubs will know the progress of victim cases. However, the reality is that that data often comes from different systems across multiple agencies, none of which use a common victim identifier, making it very difficult for the hubs to provide progress information to victims. Hubs need to consider their information architecture and data flows with criminal justice partners to be able to satisfy this seemingly straightforward need from victims.
Having a nuanced understanding of victim profiles and needs is critical in providing an effective care hub for the population it will serve. National demographic differences means there can be no one-size-fits-all national model of best practice. However, there are some common considerations to ensure that the hub service is accessible to the local population it will support. These include recognising the higher prevalence of factors such as learning difficulties, mental health, language barriers, substance abuse and other vulnerabilities that may make it difficult for services to have the desired impact on victims, unless they are tailored to these different audiences and needs.
Hire the right talent
It is imperative that careful consideration is given to the skills required within the hub and the people strategy for resourcing it. The quality of victim experience will largely be down to the skills and experience of the team engaging with each victim. For support to be effective, staff need to be skilled, given support to develop in their own roles and incentivised to stay within the service. The hub needs to have a competitive employee value proposition to be able to attract talent in a competitive front-line service marketplace. Without this, there is a risk of poor service delivery and high turnover in the workforce.
Make a difference
Developing support hubs to improve victim support services requires careful consideration to ensure they can be as effective and useful as possible to their local communities. Successful hubs can make a significant difference to victims and survivors of crime, and should be considered an important part of any community.
Is there a need to support victims and survivors in your local community? We are here to help you assess, build an action plan, and co-design a range of potential models to support victim interactions with the criminal justice system.