We live at a time when the visual is just as, if not more, important than words; indeed, when we are bombarded with the notion that “image is everything” it’s easy to lose sight of the substance that needs to sit behind it. That can be as true of websites as it is of the weekend colour supplements.

Yet the more discerning can cut through the obsession with image and look what’s behind; that’s how you’ve come to be reading this blog after looking at the home page of our website. I’m not suggesting our homepage is all front and froth; far from it. Indeed, it’s the words on the home page, in particular the words “issues affecting victims and witnesses and their needs” that I want to reference in this short blog (our first).

Supporting Justice is very much about working with issues affecting victims and witnesses and to using our experience and skills to help victims and witnesses find their voice by helping create the right environment for them to do so. If victims and witnesses don’t have that voice, feel that it’s being heard, understand that those engaging with them are listening and responding then no amount of planning, organisation, or even good intentions on the part of those delivering services will make much difference.

Supporting Justice has a clear ambition: to help make the justice and social sector work better for us all. And that is at the heart of what we are currently doing in our work with Citizens’ Advice as they take on delivery of the court based Witness Service. And it is what we have been doing for the past sixteen months in our work for the Commission for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland. We are helping these organisations and those with whom they work to make a positive difference to the lives of victims and witnesses and so help make the justice and social sectors work better for us all.

During our work in Northern Ireland in the last week we had the chance to meet with and, I hope, demonstrate that we actively listen to individual victims and survivors. It has been both humbling and enlightening. It’s easy to think that victims have but one voice, expressed loudly and clearly and that this voice is all about their own individual needs. The people we have met have shown that there is a real desire to help articulate a voice, express needs and hopes on behalf of others as well as themselves. As a model for progress an approach that looks beyond just the self is one that surely is appropriate to us all, both individuals and organisations. It re-establishes, in case we have forgotten: the need to listen properly; respond appropriately; and to cooperate closely if we are to achieve our goals.

Supporting Justice is committed to working with criminal justice and social sector professionals in listening, learning and responding to victims and witnesses in ways that “make the justice and social sector work better for us all”. That can only be done when we remain focused on the voices of victims and witnesses and don’t let them get lost behind the images we can so often present, not only to others but all too often to ourselves.