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Chapter 3: Supporting victims of crime

In this section you will find the Victims' Commissioner's full response to the questions as set out in Chapter 3 of the Victims' Law consultation.

In this chapter the government seek views on:

  • how further intervention might improve the provision of support services
  • the best way to increase the Victim Surcharge

Note: for some responses, questions have been grouped together.

View and respond to the full government consultation online.

List of questions

The full list of questions in this chapter follows below. You can find the Victims' Commissioner's full response in the sections on this page.

  • Question 23:
    • a) What legislative duties placed on local bodies to improve collaboration where multiple groups are involved (such as those set out above) have worked well, and why?
    • b) What are the risks or potential downsides of such duties?
  • Question 24: What works in terms of the current commissioning landscape, both nationally and locally, for support services for victims of:
    • a) domestic abuse
    • b) sexual violence (including child sexual abuse)
    • c) other serious violence?
  • Question 25: How could the commissioning landscape be better brought together to encourage and improve partnership working and holistic delivery of victim services for:
    • a) all victims of domestic abuse
    • b) all victims of sexual violence
    • c) all victims of other serious violence
    • d) children and young people who are victims of these crimes?
  • Question 26:
    • a) What can the Government do to ensure that commissioners are adequately responding and implementing the expertise of smaller, ‘by and for’ organisations in line with local need?
    • b) Should national commissioning play a role in the commissioning framework for smaller, ‘by and for’ organisations?
      • Yes – please explain why
      • No – please explain why
  • Question 27: What can local commissioners (local authorities and PCCs) do to improve the commissioning of specialist ‘by and for’ services for their area?
  • Question 28:
    • a) What challenges exist for victims in accessing integrated support across third sector and health service provisions?
    • b) What and how could practical measures or referral mechanisms be put in place to address these?

Increasing the Victim Surcharge

  • Question 29:
    • a) Do you agree that we should explore increasing the surcharge?
      • Yes – please explain why
      • No – please explain why
      • Don’t know / no answer
    • b) Should we consider an overall percentage increase (for example, increasing the surcharge rate by 20%)? If so, do you have any views on what the percentage increase should be?
    • c) Should we increase the minimum rate (for example, to £100)? If so, do you have anyviews on what the minimum rate should be?
  • Question 30: The surcharge for fines differs to the other surcharge impositions, as it is paid by both individuals and organisations and is calculated as a percentage amount of the fine with minimum and maximum caps.
    • a) Do you agree that we should review the surcharge paid for fines?
      • Yes – please explain why
      • No – please explain why
      • Don’t know / no answer
    • b) Should we review the cap rates for surcharge amounts for fines? If so, do you have any views on what the minimum / maximum caps should be?
    • c) Should we review the percentage amount? If so, do you have any views on what thepercentage amount should be?

Response to question 23

Note: this section was updated on 1 February 2022 to better highlight the recommendations and to include a section on 'invisible' victims.

  • Question 23:
    • a) What legislative duties placed on local bodies to improve collaboration where multiple groups are involved (such as those set out above) have worked well, and why?
    • b) What are the risks or potential downsides of such duties?

In this chapter, the government is considering the complexities of commissioning and is right to draw learning from the effectiveness of legislative duties put onto local bodies for related purposes such as the ones referred to – MAPPA and crime and disorder reduction partnerships. It is important to recognise that in this consultation about a ‘Victims’ Law’ this is the only chapter dedicated to the majority of victims of sexual violence, domestic abuse and other ‘violence against women and girls’ crimes because the majority never report to the police and thus do not interact with the criminal justice system. It is of paramount importance that government gets the commissioning of services right as this is the area that affects the majority of victims.

We are in favour of statutory duties on relevant local bodies (PCCs, health bodies and local authorities) to ensure the provision of community-based services. We do, however, envisage some issues with duties if they are poorly designed. To help mitigate this it is vital that the specialist sectors are involved in designing any duties.

We are in favour of commissioning duties on local commissioners.

The commissioning landscape is highly complex, there are multiple commissioning bodies sometimes with overlapping responsibilities, different budgets, covering different geographical areas, with different timescales and different political priorities. In some victims’ support sectors, there is both direct centralised government funding and devolved funding. Commissioning anything within this environment is intrinsically difficult to achieve. It needs leadership, buy-in and shared goals. Ultimately, all of these can be undone by one bad relationship or a few bad meetings. This must be recognised and there needs to be central government commitment to removing barriers and unequivocally driving partnership working. This is far more complex than the co-operative working required by MAPPA or the partnerships referenced above, and we are clear and strongly recommend that only a formal statutory duty will suffice. We know from stakeholders that non-statutory partnerships such as MARAC have varying levels of ‘buy-in’ at different local authorities and within geographical areas and have been considered, we feel rightly, for implementation in statute to ensure consistent service to victims of domestic abuse.

Specifically, the government has committed to explore the provision of community-based domestic abuse and sexual violence services to transform the support landscape. Chapter three refers to these services including advice services, advocacy services and recovery and support work.

The government has said that this will set expectations for the standard and availability of support for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. This will complement the existing duty for tier-one local authorities to deliver support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in safe accommodation. It is crucial to ensure that a statutory duty is introduced on local authorities and other relevant commissioners to fund community-based services for victims of domestic abuse.

Local authorities already have responsibility to deliver accommodation services and, without a similar duty for community-based services, there is a serious, indeed almost inevitable risk of a two-tier system that leaves victims without appropriate support including Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVA) services.

Refuge accommodation is hugely important, but the majority of victims stay in the home and access community-based services such as IDVAs. All victims of domestic abuse need to have access to local protection and support in their own communities.

What is clear and is widely accepted is that demand currently outstrips supply, victims are subject to a postcode lottery in accessing support with devolved funding exacerbating this problem. That there are often ‘political’ factors at play in commissioners’ decision making is a further reason why only statutory requirements can deliver the comprehensiveness required. Government should also not lose sight of the fact that the majority of victims do not engage with the criminal justice system (CJS), this especially being so for all victims of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) offences and so funding often being intrinsically linked to the CJS can mean the commissioners favour services which ‘support/ assist the CJS such as Seual Assault Referral Centres (SARCS) or Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs) and IDVAs (see answers to questions related to Chapter 4) over the services which the majority of victims need or want for their recovery outside the CJS.

We note that the government was satisfied that only a statutory duty would suffice in ensuring joint working at the local level in tackling serious violence as they have included one in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Any duties must be designed to recognise and respond to the realities on the ground and invest in the capability and capacity of commissioners to come together. Whilst legislation is needed to drive better collaboration, it is always preferable that this is based on shared aims rather than forced partnership working. There also needs to be an agreed procurement process and leadership that encourages grants.

We would strongly suggest that The ‘National Statement of Expectations’ attached to the ‘Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy 2016 to 2020’ is a good example of principles that could become duties, designed with the VAWG sector and widely considered to be robust and victim-centred, these were frustrated by a complete lack of enforceability. If not used as a basis for 'duties' on commissioners, then in the event the National Statement of Expectations which is currently being revised should be placed on a statutory footing. Any duties on commissioners must ‘have teeth’ without which they are meaningless.

Recommendations

We strongly recommend duties on public bodies to commission community-based services.

We recommend that the National Statement of Expectations is placed on a statutory footing.

Potential risks to be mitigated in any duties

Generic ‘tick box’ services

One significant potential downside of statutory duties is that they can, if poorly designed, lead to a ‘tick box’ approach, where commissioners attempt to meet their obligation in a manner which does not necessarily meet the needs of victims in the right way. There are always budgetary considerations at work, and it can be tempting for commissioners to fund providers who are able to ‘support’ higher volumes of victims at a lower cost, however much work with victims requires high levels of specialism. Truly trauma-informed work is hard to achieve at scale.

It is sometimes the case that commissioners have a poor understanding of how different organisations work with victims and as such any duties must also have clear definitions around minimum expectations for commissioning. For example, many Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) may state they commission a sexual violence service when they in fact commission a SARC, which whilst it may provide a counselling service, will not usually provide the same level of wrap-around victim-centred service as a Rape Crisis centre. It may be of interest that the Victims’ Commissioner herself recalls a conversation, when she was a PCC, with the leader of a local authority who believed they were discussing a refuge when they were discussing a Rape Crisis Centre.

Avoiding Confusion ‘on the ground’

We have recently heard that local authorities who are not experts in domestic abuse or serious violence have due to the Domestic Abuse Act been asked to comply with the accommodation- based services duty. They anticipate a serious violence prevention duty arising from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and may of course soon have to comply with duties arising from the Victim’s Law as well. These duties will have a degree of overlap and the piecemeal nature of them is potentially confusing on the ground. As such there needs to be very clear guidance to accompany any duties, ideally incorporating all the duties under thematic headings such as domestic abuse to ensure clarity. These should clearly outline expectations around things like commissioning ‘by and for’ services or services for men (see below). It is also important that any new duties are accompanied by a clear communications campaign to engage local authorities so they can keep abreast of their changing obligations.

Recommendation

We strongly recommend that government provides clear guidance and communications to public bodies around the new duties which includes clear expectations around the nature of services that should be commissioned for example how by and for services should be commissioned.

Dis-jointed/ fragmented and short-term funding

Government needs to ensure that it leads the way by bringing funding together by area rather than fragmenting it across departments with different deadlines for grants. We would strongly recommend that funding is brought together under support ‘themes’. This should include ring-fenced funding for specialist ‘by and for’ provision.

There is also a significant issue for many organisations who provide therapeutic and advocacy services when funding for posts is of a short-term nature (1-3 years) as they can struggle to recruit professionals into such a short-term role. For many the uncertainty around continues employment/ income will be off-putting. Central government should set an example here to local commissioners by ensuring they do not offer short-term funding of such roles (see also chapter 4).

Recommendation

We recommend that government leads by example in bringing funding together thematically.

Funding services with a proven track record not insisting on innovation

We would also strongly recommend a move away from the repetitive focus on innovation in favour of absolute clarity that services cannot work as we all require them to do unless they have funding for their core service requirements. The government needs to lead by example here. Otherwise agencies are under huge pressure to come up with new ideas, take part in evaluations etc. when they can’t get funding to pay for core activities which have been shown over years and are fully accepted by government to be what service users need.

Recommendation

We recommend that government encourages commissioning of services with a proven track record instead of pushing innovation.

Learning from other duties

Policy-makers who were involved in drafting the accommodation-based duty as part of the Domestic Abuse (DA) Act will of course have some learning which could be applied here. We know that many in the DA sector were concerned about the way in which accommodation is defined as part of that duty. They also shared concerns about ostensibly community-based services attached to refuge services which were not included. Any duty should be co-designed with the relevant sector.

Recommendation

We strongly recommend that any duties are co-designed with the relevant specialist sector(s) especially those involved in providing ‘by and for’ services.

'Invisible' victims

This is discussed further in other questions but there are groups of victims who are less ‘seen’, these include disabled victims especially learning -disabled victims, migrant victims, adult victims of child sexual abuse, older victims, and incidental or collateral victims who are not recognised as such in their own right such as the parents or siblings of children who have experienced child sexual abuse. It is important that these victims are made more visible and are able to access support.

Recommendation

We recommend that government encourages commissioners to cater for more victims by helping to make those most marginalised more visible.

The ‘by and for’ sector

There are considerable issues in the commissioning of the ‘by and for’ sector and these will be addressed further in questions 26 and 27, save that where there are commissioning tenders that insist on collaboration amongst organisations. The inequality of resource between bigger more generic victims’ services and small specialist ‘by and for’ services can result in very inequitable ‘collaborations’ which leave the specialist services under-renumerated and further under-resourced. This could be addressed if carefully considered at the drafting stages of any duties.

Imkaan outline how current commissioning processes fail black and minoritised ending VAWG organisations because they:

  • Privilege larger, more well-resourced providers e.g. short timelines, complex tenders, excluding criteria such as large turnovers
  • Do not adequately embed equalities e.g. structured to favour bidders who can provide support at lower costs and have a larger reach in terms of numbers, therefore local BME ‘by and for’ providers are always at a disadvantage. OR
  • Do not allow for meaningful intersectional work across diverse identities and/or strands of VAWG e.g. many BME providers work across the VAWG spectrum addressing issues such as domestic violence, child sexual exploitation, forced marriage and honour-based violence as a routine part of their case-work. Yet commissioning frameworks do not reflect this.
  • Fail to recognise the added value/resources that BME by and for providers bring. This carries no weight in a tender process. Funders rarely pay for or recognise the ‘added value’ and/or social value e.g. in-house translation/interpreting, knowledge and expertise on a broader range of VAWG strands, expertise in working across complex extended family systems and international community networks, life skills and orientation support for survivors who may have recently arrived in the UK, ethno-cultural community links and expertise, and critical contributions to equality-proofing local and national strategies.
  • Force providers into partnerships and consortia arrangements where BME organisations are often under-resourced, silenced, marginalised or ‘squeezed out’.
  • Focus on quantitative rather than qualitative results. When quality is assessed, the monitoring mechanisms are not designed to capture the nuanced way in which organisations are delivering specialist support across the protected characteristics.

These problems should be factored into and mitigated in the design of any duties and specialist by and for organisations should be involved in co-designing the duties.

Recommendation

We strongly recommend that the difficulties faced by specialist by and for organisations are mitigated in the design of any duties.

Response to questions 24 and 25

Note: this section was substantively updated on 1 February 2022 to include sections on the importance of specialisms in victim support services, an excessive focus on criminal justice interventions, and better signposting of key recommendations.

  • Question 24: What works in terms of the current commissioning landscape, both nationally and locally, for support services for victims of:
    • a) domestic abuse
    • b) sexual violence (including child sexual abuse)
    • c) other serious violence?
  • Question 25: How could the commissioning landscape be better brought together to encourage and improve partnership working and holistic delivery of victim services for:
    • a) all victims of domestic abuse
    • b) all victims of sexual violence
    • c) all victims of other serious violence
    • d) children and young people who are victims of these crimes?

We believe that we can answer these questions better together.  Commissioning currently works best where there is a degree of co-production between commissioners and services and where there is national guidance, which if followed helps to ensure commissioning is better tailored to service areas. The commissioning landscape could be more cohesive if there was better joining up between commissioners including consideration of regional pots of money and ensuring that Clinical Commissioning Groups / Integrated Care Systems are also obliged to fund services dealing with complex trauma.

The importance of long-term sustainable funding that covers ‘backroom’ costs

In addition to proposed statutory duties there needs to be government commitment to long term sustainable funding.  Including ring-fenced funding for specialist ‘by and for’ organisations.  We are very strongly of the view that the short-term nature of much funding is counter-productive and can create damaging real workforce issues including trouble retaining staff, difficulties in long-term service planning and reduced opportunities for further development of services. Funding should also be, at least in part, unrestricted to provide a degree of flexibility, the need for this was well demonstrated by the unexpected pressures of the pandemic.

Some types of support service should arguably be commissioned at a national level which would help to ensure less of a ‘postcode lottery’. The rape support fund has helped to transform the landscape in sexual violence commissioning but there is no equivalent fund in health for sexual violence services – see below question 28.

In this national commissioning arena, government should provide leadership in supporting existing core services over the longer term, rather than constantly seeking innovation. Government should also require commissioners to fund core costs such as administrative costs and to take real note of the need for vital clinical supervision for those workers who are at risk of vicarious trauma and burn-out. Currently clinical supervision is thin on the ground and usually scraped from resource intended for service delivery.

We do not address in detail here the issues around commissioning of ISVAs, IDVAs or other advocates as this is the subject of Chapter 4 of the consultation.

Recommendation

We strongly recommend that government provides long-term sustainable funding for services, including ‘back-room’ costs and ring-fences funding for specialist by and for services.  

Measuring outcomes

Measurement of outcomes must align with data that providers already collect. We hear concerns that data currently requested for monitoring and evaluation is onerous for small organisations and often disproportionate to the size of the grant. There are often similar demands for data but required in different form. We strongly recommend that requests for data should be limited and standardised to some extent.

We strongly recommend both quantitative and qualitative outcomes need to be victim-focused, looking at their individual recovery rather than numbers of victims supported/entering and exiting the system. The holistic nature of supporting victims must be considered. While some standardisation of reporting outcomes is welcome, it is vital that there is flexibility within these and that the highly specific nature of for example VAWG is taken into consideration, ideally metrics should be co-produced with the specialist VAWG sector and survivors.

Recommendation

We strongly recommend that government provide guidance to commissioners that both quantitative and qualitative outcomes need to be victim-focused, looking at their individual recovery rather than numbers of victims supported/entering and exiting the system.

Importance of Specialism and what survivors want

One of the key points here is that specialism is absolutely vital for services working with people who have experienced sexual violence, domestic abuse and other ‘interpersonal’ crime types. We hear from national umbrella organisations such as Rape Crisis England and Wales and Women’s Aid that survivors in general do not report positive experiences of generic services, many find interactions can cause further trauma.

Most survivors want individualised, holistic, and on-going services for as long as they need the support. They want services to be properly funded so that they do not have to deal with inconsistency of service or changes in personnel.

They want ‘experts’ helping them and for many it is imperative that they feel the service caters for their personal characteristics and/or understands their cultural or social needs. More on that below.

Recommendation

We strongly recommend that government encourages specialism in guidance accompanying any duties. 

Excessive focus on criminal justice interventions in commissioning

Related to the above and touched on in answer to question 23, we have heard that the focus on funding perceived criminal justice interventions such as ISVAs and SARCs can leave some other forms of support relatively poorly funded.  This is even though they are absolutely key for the majority of victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse who do not engage with the criminal justice system.

It also misunderstands how for example the role of the ISVA or IDVA works symbiotically with therapeutic services or more generic advocacy services (providing help with housing, health etc.)

This reflects the type of holistic support that many survivors want and need.

It is vital that these other types of support are funded too.

Recommendations

We strongly recommend that government include all forms of support in its’ funding strategy and centralised funding and does not focus exclusively on CJS interventions.  

We also recommend that guidance accompanying ant duties makes clear the commissioners must commission other services in addition to CJS interventions.

Gender inclusive services versus gender segregated services and the importance of choice

It is vital that any duties are underpinned by principles of equality and inclusion, both in the provision of services and reporting of data for those with protected characteristics.

Of some concern to the specialist sector is the increasing move towards the de-gendering of services, or put another way, insistence on gender-inclusive services.  For example, it is recognised that sexual violence is a gendered phenomenon, the drivers for and impacts of sexual violence are different for male, female and non-binary individuals. Many bigger organisations have moved from other types of victim support work into the highly specialised area of VAWG but they often lack a gendered analysis.  Whilst their more generic approach may work for some victims, the majority of victims require specialist support which includes an understanding of how intersecting aspects of their identity impact on their experience of trauma.

Nearly all specialist sector organisations whether supporting men, women, boys or girls are clear that a gendered analysis is a vital part of trauma-informed work. The government are in the process of commissioning a non-gendered 24-hour sexual violence helpline. We strongly recommend that any perceived need for longer hours for sexual violence helplines is firstly checked against available data which we believe does not demonstrate a need. Secondly, if nonetheless a 24-hour phone support is required by the government it should be achieved by funding to supplement the hours operated by the current helpline providers, who all work on the basis of a gendered analysis.  

We are told that men who have experienced sexual violence or domestic abuse frequently want a service that is just for them as they feel that a gender-inclusive service may be too ‘feminised’ or may perceive it as ‘for women only’ because these are viewed as VAWG crimes.  It is important that government leads the way in encouraging commissioners to think about the extent to which they cater for men and boys.  A good start would be a men and boys interpersonal violence strategy.

Having consulted stakeholders, we heard that the appropriate and needed central government push to tackle VAWG without any central strategic approach towards men experiencing interpersonal violence can leave services for men and male victims feeling excluded.

We were given this example by a men and boys service which illustrates the issue:

The following statement is one of five objectives from a PCC police and crime plan.  

  • Women and girls are protected from violence, vulnerable people are safeguarded and there is a sustained reduction in the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on our roads.

The service provider felt this is problematic because it doesn’t recognise that males also need protection from violence and as a public statement potentially marginalises male survivors.

It was also an ‘aim’ of a commission tender that the service would like to bid for, essentially it means that they have to demonstrate how their project protects women from violence.

There must be consideration of the needs of men and boys who experience interpersonal crime, and we recommend a central government strategy that would set a clear expectation.

This relates to another point in policy terms ‘trauma-informed’ is now used frequently to describe how statutory services should behave and is often used in commissioning such as the above-mentioned 24 hour helpline.  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a consistent definition of ‘trauma- informed’ and this creates confusion and means that the service that victims receive will vary significantly because services use different definitions of this and interpret it differently. It would be extremely useful if government in consultation with specialists defined ‘trauma-informed’ so that all agencies are using the same definition.

It is vital that statutory services dealing with victims of sexual violence, domestic abuse, so-called honour -based abuse and other highly traumatic crime have trauma-informed training. We therefore strongly recommend that there should be a statutory requirement that all criminal justice practitioners who come into regular contact with victims of serious violent, sexual and domestic abuse undertake trauma informed training.

It is important that a range of services are commissioned and that commissioners are mindful that gender-inclusive services and/or services that lack a gendered analysis that can be problematic for victims of certain types of crime. This is particularly an issue in sexual violence and domestic abuse where the drivers, experiences of violence and abuse and impacts are ‘gendered’.  Many services insist that in order to be properly ‘trauma informed’ it is vital organisations have foundations built on this analysis.

Allied to this is a very specific issue which faces some groups of victims to a greater extent than others.  Disabled victims are frequently seen in policy terms as a homogenous group ‘the disabled’ but this belies the reality that abuse of disabled people is also a gendered issue.  At a national level data is often not even disaggregated by gender but where this is the case it is clear that disabled women and girls are much more likely to be sexually abused/ assaulted than non-disabled women and girls. They are also more likely to be abused/ assaulted than disabled men and boys.

The same issues arise in national policy on children, the drivers, patters and impacts of abuse in children are different depending on whether they are boys or girls and the services they require are therefore different and should be tailored accordingly.  Government should show leadership in this area so that local commissioners can comply with their public sector equality duty. Arguably gender inclusive domestic abuse and sexual violence services risk non-compliance with this duty.

It is also vital that trans and non-binary people are able to access support in an environment that is inclusive and comfortable for them.

We strongly recommend that there is an amendment to Section 5 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to require Police and Crime Commissioners to provide a plan for victim services as part of their five-year policing plan and this should include a requirement to set out within that plan how they intend to meet their PSED.

Importantly what victims want, and need are options.  We heard recently that the Respect men’s helpline mostly receives calls from men who are heterosexual, many gay men experiencing domestic abuse prefer to contact Galop. For some victims a service which they perceive is tailored to their personal characteristics will be vital, others may be less concerned about this, the point is that they should have some choice, particularly around gender.

Recommendations

We strongly recommend that there is an amendment to Section 5 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to require Police and Crime Commissioners to provide a plan for victim services as part of their five-year policing plan and this should include a requirement to set out within that plan how they intend to meet their PSED.

We recommend that guidance accompanying any duties is clear about the importance of choice for victims.

We recommend that government creates a men and boys interpersonal violence strategy.

Examples which can help in commissioning ‘VAWG’ services

The VAWG sector several years ago produced some shared service standards. These were in part designed to aid commissioners in ensuring that high quality services are being commissioned through the contracting process, and that provision is of a coherent and consistent standard across the VAWG sector.  These kinds of standards created by a sector can greatly help commissioners navigate the variety of different organisations who may be providing services.

There is also a Commissioning Toolkit designed by Women’s Aid and Imkaan which is designed to help local commissioners commission services for women and children. We strongly recommend that commissioners are signposted to this resource and that those considering this response read it the toolkit and consider its’ principles particularly when thinking about local duties.

The Male Survivors Partnership have created a set of service quality standards for organisations providing services for male survivors of interpersonal violence and an accompanying implementation guide for commissioners which could also be useful when considering duties on commissioners.

Recommendations

We recommend that government considers sector shared commissioning guides and services standards as a good starting point for any duties.

Children as victims

Whilst we are not ‘experts’ in children and indeed there is a Children’s Commissioner who will no doubt be responding to this consultation, we do wish to make the following points about children, in addition to the problems cited above of considering children in policy terms in a degendered way:

Firstly, as we mention again in our responses to Chapter 4 The Victims’ Commissioner is currently researching victim advocates. The emerging findings demonstrate that are number of areas have specific ISVAs (or CHISVAs) and IDVAs (or CHIDVAs) in place for child victims of these crimes. These roles provide specialist rape crisis support for children and young people and targeted support for children experiencing domestic abuse.

Furthermore, a limited number of areas have specialist child advocate roles across other areas. This includes for children impacted by child sexual exploitation and those that target young people involved in, or at risk of, gang involvement and exploitation.

The availability of all such advocate roles for children is patchy and inconsistent across England and Wales. This means a postcode lottery for some of the most vulnerable victims of crime. These roles should be evaluated and, where shown to be effective, should be rolled out consistently in order to ensure that all child victims are able to access appropriate advocate roles.

Many specialist services who deal with domestic abuse or sexual violence do also provide services specifically for children and as such should be involved along with ‘children’s charities’ in helping to design provision for child victims of these crimes.  

Secondly, we note that the ‘Child House’ model of support for children who have experienced sexual violence has gained some popularity in policy circles and whilst we can see the benefit of specialism ‘all under one roof’ we know that the specialist sector has some concerns about this model, including that police are co-located with medical and therapeutic services which can suggest that a child can only access ‘therapy’ if they also report to the Police. They are extremely costly when money may be better spent elsewhere and there is a suggestion that certain categories of children are more likely to access the service i.e. ones whose parents/ guardians are better able to advocate for the child.  We strongly recommend that when government is considering statutory duties around services for children they include ‘subject matter experts’ as well as ‘child’ experts i.e. sexual violence charities as well as children’s charities.

Finally, the Domestic Abuse Act 2020 (DA Act) recognises children experiencing domestic abuse are victims in their own right but there is confusion from some service providers of what this actually means. It would appear many are unclear about how this will affect commissioning at a local level.  It is vital that this is clarified and that any duties under this law are compatible with the DA Act.  This is particularly important as the statutory duties on local authorities under that act exclude community-based services.  As with sexual violence above it is vital that government consults not only children’s charities but also specialist domestic abuse charities when designing commissioning duties around services for children experiencing domestic abuse.

Whilst this is a vital and welcomed development for children experiencing domestic abuse, children in families who are victimised by other types of crime are not recognised as victims in their own right currently even though they may experience significant trauma. For example, children who have experienced burglary may be deeply affected by this but would struggle to access support. Government should consider this in how support is commissioned.

Recommendation

We strongly recommend that in designing commissioning duties around children government includes specialist subject matter expert service providers as well as children’s charities.

Other serious violence

Whilst our answers to these questions focus mainly on domestic abuse and sexual violence, we would argue that victims of any traumatic crime should have access to trained advocates, like the IDVA or ISVA role but tailored to other types of traumatic crime for example victims of trafficking.  There also needs to be access to other forms of support, we hear that those experiencing other violent crime are often only able to access IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) which is frequently around 8 sessions of telephone Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (see below question 28). Whilst this may be helpful for some victims of crime for many this is inadequate, and they will require a longer and more holistic approach.

Recommendations

We recommend that victims of other forms of serious violence/ traumatic crime are able to access trained advocates and therapeutic support.

Migrant victims

A group of victims who are frequently excluded both from the criminal justice system and from services (because of commissioning policies) are those with insecure immigration status.  The government’s failure to offer protections to this group is one of the main reasons that the UK is yet to ratify the Istanbul Convention. We strongly recommend that any victims law contains a non-discrimination clause to ensure that victims who have insecure immigration status are treated as victims of crime not as ‘suspect’ immigrants.

Response to questions 26 and 27

  • Question 26:
    • a) What can the Government do to ensure that commissioners are adequately responding and implementing the expertise of smaller, ‘by and for’ organisations in line with local need?
    • b) Should national commissioning play a role in the commissioning framework for smaller, ‘by and for’ organisations?
      • Yes – please explain why
      • No – please explain why
  • Question 27: What can local commissioners (local authorities and PCCs) do to improve the commissioning of specialist ‘by and for’ services for their area?

‘By and for’ services are vital and preferred by many service users. Current commissioning structures do not work well for specialist by and for organisations. Central government ring-fenced funding, strategic planning and implementation of a national framework would help. At local level commissioners must consider how their tenders are biased towards larger generic organisations and must strive for a ‘do no harm approach’.

Forced Collaboration/ partnership working

An abiding issue which is touched on in the answer to question 23 is that of ‘forced’ partnership working. Many specialist ‘by and for’ organisations find that the only way to compete in the competitive market of commissioning is to enter into partnership with larger better resourced organisations.  These are frequently not comfortable arrangements as they arise under duress of circumstance.

To expand on this we refer to the 2017 Imkaan briefing: ‘Good Practice Briefing: uncivil partnerships? Reflections on collaborative working in the ending violence against women and girls sector’ where they describe how: “Organisations can experience themselves as struggling, fighting for funding, or having less voice than larger, well-funded charities.”

They outline how their members ‘who are mainly small, local BME-led organisations, describe the challenges of working in partnership with larger non-BME organisations. This can include ongoing micro-aggressions (such as questioning of professionalism), attempts to enforce limitations on the parameters of work (e.g. assuming / demanding that an organisation only works around issues such as forced marriage, because they are a BME service provider), exclusion from local partnerships, policing of feminist credentials, competition for BME specific funding contracts, and even bullying of staff.’

Imkaan further outline how often small organisations feel forced into partnership working due to the nature of commissioning and funding regimes, frequently these partnerships are pragmatic in nature, due to existential threat or fear of being subsumed. We hear that despite this briefing dating back to 2017 these issues persist.

Whilst we broadly recognise the benefits of partnership working, particularly at local level it is vital that commissioning practices do not invertedly exacerbate this already fraught area.

The problems with commissioning of partnership working for the specialist by and for sector are further outlined in Imkaan’s 2018 briefing ‘From Survival to Sustainability':

  • ‘The issue of partnerships is one that is being routinely raised by members as an area which is fraught with difficulty. Imkaan has witnessed the ways in which members are forced into locally commissioned partnerships under the following circumstances:
  • Local authority tenders being drafted in ways that subsume multiple contracts into a single large contract to be awarded to either a single [larger and possibly more generic] provider or to a consortium
  • Being informed by commissioners and local agencies that a failure to join a partnership will result in exclusion from not only the bidding processes, but also other local structures such as the domestic violence forum
  • Contract criteria excluding smaller providers from the framework, leaving them with no choice but to partner with [usually larger] organisations or in at least one case, to be subcontracted by a larger organisation.
  • Local needs assessments excluding BME provision or removing the requirement for this provision to be BME led.

Where organisations have refused to enter into the partnerships, this can have serious consequences including closure. Members sometimes resort to being strategically pragmatic in order to ensure not only an organisation’s survival but also to attempt to influence / counter wider agendas. As such some members have entered into partnerships and consortia, despite the strain places on individual workers and on the organisations. However, BME organisations are increasingly coming together, including across different regions to establish autonomous BME led collaborations and consortia. For example, the Samira Project is a London-based partnership drawing together BME providers with a focus on outreach work; and the Oya consortium is a newly established partnership of BME refuge providers, seeking to develop autonomous, collaborative working structures which will support BME women and children within a black feminist ethos.’

Collaborative working can if the tender is well-designed work well.  In their response to the government’s VAWG strategy consultation (2021) Stay Safe East discussed the commissioning of specialist by and for services:

‘When disabled women do access support services, they find that these services are not always geared to their needs. This is especially the case for domestic abuse services. Most commissioned IDVA services work mainly by phone and are expected to work with high numbers of survivors for a short period of time – in some cases as low as six weeks and provide advice and information rather than advocacy.

While this may work for some survivors, it rarely does for disabled, Deaf or Black and minoritised women who face complex barriers to safety. Disabled participants in the European research [user-led European research on Specialist Services for Women with Disabilities who have experienced violence] stated that ‘time’ and access were the two most important factors in how they felt that services responded to them. Stay Safe East works on average with clients for two years but in some cases we keep cases open over four or five years because a woman needs that time, trust and support to start making changes in her life. We also do not ‘separate out’ her experiences of sexual and domestic abuse, loss of human rights, misogyny, racism, homophobia or everyday disablism, but support her how she chooses. Like most specialised ‘by and for ‘services, we provide holistic support tailored to client needs. This requires resources and commitment and a change to the ‘one size fits all’ approach.

The strategy should address the role of local commissioners. Stay Safe East has benefitted from being included by Victim Support and Solace in bids for contracts to MOPAC for London domestic abuse and VAWG services, as a result of which disabled women and men across London now have access to specialist support. MOPAC have also prioritized ‘by and for’ organisations (BAME, LGBT and disability) with a specialist VAWG fund. To our knowledge, this model of commissioning has not been had not been used elsewhere.

Stay Safe East only operates in London. At present there are no other specialist services for disabled survivors in the rest of England and Wales. Capacity building is going to be essential – Disabled People’s Organisations working with women’s organisations and disabled survivors to create new services for disabled survivors. Such partnerships must be led by disabled women. This is a long-term project which requires seed funding.

There is growing awareness amongst VAWG organisations of the need for tailored responses to disabled survivors, and the number of their disabled clients is growing year on year. The involvement of Sign Health and Stay Safe East as specialist services led by Deaf and disabled women alongside organisations of disabled women such as Sisters of Frida or of survivor groups such as Disabled Survivors Unite and Me too/ARC has been critical in bringing about this change.

This trend needs to be supported by Government with additional resources for access, communication support, more time to work with survivors, training and engagement with disabled survivors.

So, in practice unwittingly exclusionary tenders or commissioning practices can squeeze out smaller specialist services.  This is a problem because research shows that overwhelmingly people prefer to be supported in ‘by and for’ organisations. Smaller organisations often exist in a state of permanent existential crisis and lack the resource to devote to a tender bid. Procurement processes favour bigger organisations, commissioners need to be aware of this and need to consider how their process impacts the ability of smaller organisations to bid. Commissioners also need to consider the impact of specifications, for example, many tenders will now specify gender neutrality, but this can be problematic in terms of some services such as refuges and other VAWG services.

A national framework and strategy to ensure adequate by and for provision  

A national framework and ring-fenced funding could assist here. This should be co-designed with specialist by and for organisations that represent a wide range of specialist by and for provision including deaf and disabled people's organisations to ensure that these existing tensions are not made worse.

In their report Imkaan make recommendations to government about the issue of commissioning by and for services:

  • A 5-year strategy for addressing this issues affecting this sector, which should include a national funding stream. This should be administered centrally and be focused on ensuring BME led by and for organisations receive core funding. This should be ring fenced and accessible only to BME ending VAWG organisations in order to prevent the current dynamic where non-BME providers are able to bid for BME services, leading to further marginalisation of BME ending VAWG organisations. The ring-fence approach should also prioritise the most vulnerable organisations in order to ensure that they are able to access adequate funding to stabilise services.

Similarly, they make recommendations to local commissioners:

  • Develop a ‘do no harm’ approach to commissioning, which should involve working with BME ending VAWG organisations as key partners in local ending VAW strategies including ensuring that needs assessments meaningfully include BME providers.
  • One size does not fit all. It is important to recognise the role of BME ending VAWG organisations. While single contracts are easier to manage, multiple contracts preserve leadership, expertise and specialism.
  • Draw on the framework laid out in the VAWG Commissioning Toolkit

Recommendations

We strongly recommend that government co-designs with specialist ‘by and for’ organisations a national framework for commissioning.

We strongly recommend ring-fenced centralised funding for the by and for sector.

Response to question 28

Note: this section was updated on 1 February 2022 to better signpost the recommendations.

  • Question 28:
    • a) What challenges exist for victims in accessing integrated support across third sector and health service provisions?
    • b) What and how could practical measures or referral mechanisms be put in place to address these?

The pathways between health, particularly mental health services and sexual violence services need to be improved.  We hear that whilst health bodies such as CCGs rarely fund sexual violence services, most areas do refer victims of sexual violence to their local sexual violence services as the ‘Improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) offering is not suitable for dealing with complex trauma. We strongly recommend that there should be an expectation as part of any local duties that some funding for specialist sexual violence services will come from the heath budget with better working practices across health and CJS commissioners.

We hear that there are real issues around how third sector services work with health. 

This is particularly an issue where these 2 provisions meet such as in sexual violence where health are often involved from a mental health perspective.

In their 2021 report ‘Holding it together’ Rape Crisis England and Wales discuss the ‘pathway’ issues that arise at this intersection, explain that few centres receive health funding:

‘CCGs and Local Authorities categorise sexual violence and abuse as crimes, rather than mental health and wellbeing issues. This is despite the majority of victims and survivors not accessing the criminal justice system and requiring specialist sexual violence and abuse counselling and therapy.’

This is despite the fact that in many areas’ ‘health’ refer people to Rape Crisis Services as NHS mental health provision is simply not designed to deal with such complex trauma.  That same report contains a recommendation to commissioners:

CCGs and Integrated Care Systems must recognise the high levels of demand for specialist sexual violence and abuse community-based services such as the bespoke, wraparound and trauma-informed services provided by Rape Crisis Centres. CCGs, Integrated Care Systems, and regional NHS leads need to commit to reducing fragmentation (as per NHS SAAS priorities) in care pathways by appropriately funding specialist Rape Crisis Centres.’

Although this policy and legislation sit with the Ministry of Justice there should be proper cross-government working on the issues of commissioning victims’ services because commissioning is not just within CJS bodies, the legislation and statutory guidance should also place clear expectations on health around commissioning of services.

In some areas, health works well with other commissioning bodies. This is particularly the case it seems in devolved administrations.  We heard about how this works in Greater Manchester.  Survivors Manchester is commissioned jointly by CCGs and the PCC/ Deputy Mayor. This would suggest that amalgamating funds and co-commissioning can work really well.

As with other commissioner’s it is vital that health commissioner’s also meet the ‘backroom’ costs of services.

Recommendations

We recommend that there is cross-government working in this area to ensure that health commissioners are where appropriate subject to any duties arising from this legislation.

We recommend that there are clear expectations set for ‘health’ commissioners when it comes to commissioning victims’ services.

Response to questions 29 and 30

Note: The Victims' Commissioner will not be submitting a response to these questions. It is felt that this is beyond the area of expertise of the office.

  • Question 29:
    • a) Do you agree that we should explore increasing the surcharge?
      • Yes – please explain whyNo – please explain whyDon’t know / no answerb) Should we consider an overall percentage increase (for example, increasing the surcharge rate by 20%)? If so, do you have any views on what the percentage increase should be?c) Should we increase the minimum rate (for example, to £100)? If so, do you have anyviews on what the minimum rate should be?
  • Question 30: The surcharge for fines differs to the other surcharge impositions, as it is paid by both individuals and organisations and is calculated as a percentage amount of the fine with minimum and maximum caps.
    • a) Do you agree that we should review the surcharge paid for fines?
      • Yes – please explain why
      • No – please explain why
      • Don’t know / no answer
    • b) Should we review the cap rates for surcharge amounts for fines? If so, do you have any views on what the minimum / maximum caps should be?c) Should we review the percentage amount? If so, do you have any views on what thepercentage amount should be?