Victim Support often uses its responses to specific consultations to highlight policy gaps for victims of crime. For example, in our response to the recent consultation by the Department for Education and Skills on the Safeguarding Children guidance, we pointed out that the British Crime Survey does not count crimes against under-16s. How, we asked, is it possible for society and its policymakers to come up with proposals to safeguard children and young people if it does not have an accurate picture of crime committed against them?
We also use the consultation to try to improve policy. For example, voluntary organisations working with children and young people will, on two levels, welcome and encourage this consultation’s focus on achieving effective multi-agency working. First, they know that close working between the statutory agencies will result in better services. Second, voluntary agencies themselves provide vital services to meet the needs of young victims and will welcome a commitment from statutory bodies that they will involve us and make use of our services. But how multi-agency work is carried out on the ground is instrumental to the success of services for safeguarding children and young people.
Victim Support’s specialist children services work in the multi-agency environment. We work with children and young people indirectly, by enabling parents or carers to recognise the effects of crime on the young person and giving them strategies to help their child, or directly by providing support.
The Witness Service, present in every criminal court in England and Wales, help young witnesses to understand the court process, take part in pre-trial visits and understand special measures to protect them in court. We have also set up the Young Victims Project, which is piloting new ways of working with children and young people who are affected by crime.
Each of these projects relies on good interagency working within a clear statutory framework. We negotiate how Victim Support interacts with other agencies, starting with a commitment to avoid duplication and to refer to the best service for the person. We achieve this by working with other agencies to draw up protocols that set out roles and responsibilities, and answer questions such as: who will provide this service, when and how? At what point do they refer to the next service? This helps to fill as well as reveal the gaps in policy and services for young people.
We believe that a key function of local safeguarding children boards should be to highlight needs in policy and practice and campaign to get them met. Perhaps they can start by calling for a national crime survey for under-16s.
Joanna Perry is policy manager, Victim Support