Victim of success

    Curriculum Vitae 

    Name: Peter Dunn

    Job: Head of research and development, Victim
    Support

    Qualifications: MSc Social Work Studies,
    CQSW

    Last job: Policy adviser, Youth Justice
    Board

    First job: Bank clerk 

    In 1974 members of rehabilitation agency Nacro in Bristol were
    concerned that victims of crime faced significant emotional,
    practical and financial problems, but no statutory agency was
    helping them. And so the first victim support group was formed.

    Thirty-one years on, Victim Support is a well-known and
    well-respected national association with 10,000 volunteers and
    about a thousand staff. Its 90 local charities provide emotional
    support, practical help and information to victims of crime. It
    also has a witness service in every court in England, Wales and
    Northern Ireland. It is a remarkable success story. However, there
    was a gap in their service.

    “Up until two or three years ago we didn’t really provide a
    service directly to young victims of crime,” says Peter Dunn, head
    of research and development at Victim Support. “Instead we used to
    work with parents and carers to support the young person
    themselves.”

    However, this was proving unsatisfactory. “Sometimes parents or
    carers were not really able to respond to a young person’s needs in
    an appropriate way; they, too, may have been affected by the crime
    – a burglary, for example. Also, quite often the young person may
    be acting as a carer to the parent.

    “There was also increasing evidence that young people expect and
    want to use services in their own right, saying, ‘I don’t want you
    to tell my parents’ or would want to talk to us directly,” says
    Dunn.

    A big challenge was the need for cultural change. “There was
    some resistance from managers and staff to the idea of working with
    young people. We had to tackle that mindset by first showing that
    it was potentially discriminatory: they wouldn’t take that approach
    with other groups – so why do it with young people? Second, we
    needed to convince members that there wasn’t a need for a whole set
    of new skills, but rather an enhanced level of existing skills
    which could be developed through our learning materials,” he
    says.

    Crucially, Dunn continually consulted members so that concerns
    could be raised and tackled. “We used our bi-annual regional
    meetings to discuss developments with members locally, and ran a
    workshop on the new service at our national conference.”

    Victim Support worked on four areas – standards, practice
    guidance for managers, child protection policy and a learning
    programme for volunteers. “We also did some secondary research,
    with the help of criminology students, looking at the needs of
    young victims,” adds Dunn.

    A development group of interested managers, staff and volunteers
    looked at the research evidence, and over a year with the
    development officer (funded by a private donor) produced standards,
    a service framework and practice guidance (for example, what do you
    do if the young person asks for a hug?), which were helpfully
    scrutinised by willing children’s organisations.

    “At the same time we produced an assessment tool. It was clear
    that we couldn’t provide the right sort of service unless we had a
    thorough assessment of a young person’s needs. This was different
    to what we had done before,” says Dunn.

    The net result was three age-related versions of a young
    people’s support pack. “We piloted the support pack and the
    learning materials in areas where members were keen on it – to help
    get word around that it’s all working out quite well. That was
    quite a successful approach,” smiles Dunn.

    The new service was also sold as an opportunity. “One of our
    major preoccupations over recent years has been looking to increase
    the diversity of our volunteer profile. Most of our services are
    delivered by volunteers – and people who want to volunteer tend to
    be mainly, but not exclusively, older women.

    “We were able to persuade members that this new service would
    help us attract more young people into volunteering; in particular,
    young men, people from black and minority ethnic groups and more
    lesbians and gay men. And we are beginning to get some evidence
    that this is working,” says Dunn.

    TOP TIPS

    • Find out what service users want – don’t make assumptions about
      their needs.
    • Make sure that stakeholders are consulted properly – not just
      as a gesture.
    • Have  sound research evidence – look at what works.

    RUBBISH TIPS

    • Be confident that the government and statutory agencies will be
      interested in what you are doing.
    • If there’s resistance from stakeholders, just push on because
      you know what you are doing.
    • Don’t spend too much time on consultation – someone has to 
      make a decision.

     

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