1. The Commissioner introduced this item and highlighted Compass House in Ashford which provided a co-ordinated hub for victim services in Kent. HMIC had recently visited Compass House as part of their fact finding and were very complimentary about the services on offer. The Commissioner praised his staff for their work on developing Compass House prior to his arrival.
2. The Commissioner referred Members to paragraph 17 of the report which evidenced greater numbers of victims able to access support, victim satisfaction was very high and the Commissioner paid credit to the Victim Support team. There had been a drop in overall victim satisfaction from 79% to 74% but the Commissioner and his team were working with Kent Police to understand the reasons and learn lessons to improve satisfaction levels.
3. Referring to specialist victim services £450,000 had been allocated to charities and the Commissioner highlighted some including East Kent Rapeline and Family Matters, who were working with child victims of sexual assault, the charity DAVSS which provided support for male victims of domestic violence and Choices DA service in Dartford which was providing an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser for men and LGBT victims. The Commissioner was aiming to visit all the charities he had provided funding to.
4. A Member asked whether victims had to travel to Compass House, had any work been done on whether victims were willing to travel and where the visitors to Compass House were coming from. The Commissioner explained that Victim Support operate Compass Points, making themselves available in every district for those people who are not able to travel to Ashford. The Commissioner offered to submit a report to a future meeting of the Panel setting out the number of victims visiting Compass House.
5. Another Member asked whether there were particular hard to reach or isolated communities which could really benefit from the services available but did not access them? If there were pockets across Kent which did not access the support available due to, for example, culture or race, what action was Compass House taking to support these groups? The Commissioner confirmed that Compass House focussed on being accessible and breaking down cultural barriers and offered to talk to Compass House about this issue and to provide a report back.
6. One Member asked whether there was any value in a Kent wide group sharing good and bad practice across victim support services. The Commissioner explained that the Victim Support contract ensured Kent wide coverage, and his office also tried to ensure Kent wide coverage when deciding on grant allocations. The Commissioner also outlined an important project with Essex Police focused on child sexual exploitation and Modern Day Slavery, with a Coordinator working hard to break down barriers within certain communities and promote the support available. The domestic abuse contract was also county wide with triage provided by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and services provided within the districts.
7. A Member asked how success was defined in relation to specialist victim services, particularly in relation to support for victims of hate crime who had autism or learning difficulties. The Commissioner explained that services such as ‘Talking Therapies’ had had a tremendous impact on the waiting list for counselling support for young people. The Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were being challenged to do all they could to support vulnerable people.
8. A Member congratulated Victim Support on being awarded the core victim services contact in December 2015. The Commissioner explained that money had been received from the Ministry of Justice to procure the service.
9. In response to a comment from a member about how crime was perceived, the Commissioner explained that the classification of hate crime was a decision for the Force. Since the EU Referendum there had been an increase in reported incidents of hate crime linked with race and religion.
10. The Commissioner was asked what his opinion was of the consultation from the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims on the devolution of the remaining nationally commissioned victim’s services. The Commissioner explained that he was in favour of services being joined up where appropriate; he would be supportive of the devolution of the remaining nationally commissioned victim’s services.
11. A Member asked about support for businesses as victims of crime. Businesses wanted to have confidence in the charging process and confidence in the prosecution process. The Commissioner explained that business crime across the county was extremely important to him. The Commissioner had been very active meeting businesses in Kent and had recently travelled to Ramsgate to meet businesses there. The Federation of Small Businesses had been consulted on their views and concerns. Referring to the prosecution process the Commissioner said it was a decision for the Crown Prosecution Service over whether to pursue cases to prosecution. If more powers were devolved and Commissioners got oversight of performance of the criminal justice system the Commissioner would have more powers in this area. The Commissioner also referred to ‘Track my Crime’ which could be used more with victims to ensure they had confidence that the policing service was robust.
12. The Chairman closed this item commenting that victims and policing should not be seen as separate entities, the Commissioner confirmed that victims and witnesses were his priority and also that of Kent Police.
RESOLVED that the Panel note the Commissioner’s report on Support for Victims.