Since 2015, the MOPAC (Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime) Victims' Fund has distributed nearly £2m to 43 organisations supporting women and girls who suffered from violence and abuse, as well as victims of hate and youth crime across London. The fund supports victims to cope and recover by building the capacity of the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector and encouraging partnerships to provide integrated services.
Last Tuesday, I was invited to speak at the first Victims' Summit organized by MOPAC and discussed the role of the VCSE sector in supporting victims. The Summit was chaired by Claire Waxman, Victim’s Commissioner for London and with Sadiq Khan delivering the keynote speech, I had big footsteps to fill. Throughout the day we heard powerful testimonies from people who had been affected by crime and their experience of the criminal justice system. Hearing directly from victims highlighted how important being treated with empathy is. We were all struck by the strength and resilience of people who had suffered incredibly traumatic experiences. We learnt about the positive role Restorative Justice can play in people’s ability to cope with and recover from their experiences. We heard from members of the Metropolitan Police Service, the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and Victims Campaigners about the impact of trauma and the importance of advocacy. The event brought together delegates from the CJS, policy makers and the VCSE sector; the interactive sessions on integrating services and transforming the CJS revealed a recognition and appreciation of the role of small specialist organisations in increasing access to services and supporting victims through the CJS. The event demonstrated MOPAC’s commitment to giving victims a voice and attendees demonstrated a commitment to work collaboratively together to improve services and ensure victims are at the heart of the CJS.
Speaking up for victims of violence and abuse is vital. As the numbers of victims continues to increase, this becomes more and more important. The VCSE sector is particularly well-placed to support victims. With strong connections to local communities, these organisations have an intricate understanding of local issues and needs. They are approachable and known, often recommended through word of mouth, and are therefore able to establish trusting and personal relationships. Due to their neutral standing, they are able to reach individuals skeptical of the police and social services. It is a combination of an inviting environment, both physical and emotional, as well as a focus on empowerment and targeted advocacy that makes these groups so important. This not only allows them to offer short-term support to victims, but also to change public policy and community perceptions in the long-term.