A year later than scheduled due to the Covid 19 pandemic, we saw, in May, the (re) election of police and crime commissioners. About a third of those elected are new commissioners and, along with those re-elected, will bring with them a set of priorities and commitments that aim to make their communities safer, well protected and policed and offer vital and effective support to those affected by crime.

Sexual violence, domestic abuse, stalking, assault and robbery, burglary, anti social behaviour; all these can and do have devastating impacts on those subjected to them and these victims and survivors need to be confident that they can report crimes, knowing they will be heard and that, as well as finding a criminal justice system that pursues cases with vigour and sensitivity they will also have access to effective and outcomes focused support from agencies and organisations that are often funded by police and crime commissioners.

The key to delivering effective services to victims, and witnesses, is to make sure that the focus, throughout, is clearly on outcomes: not inputs, not outputs (measuring and counting numbers) but outcomes. The key question to ask is: has this service actually delivered what the victim really needed (or at least gone as far as possible in delivering their needs). And the outcomes desired need to be built into the relevant service right from the start, continuously monitored and, where and when appropriate, reviewed and assessed against agreed and established criteria.

We at Supporting Justice have, over many years, tried to shift the focus in victim services onto the need to deliver such outcomes. It is not enough to be able to demonstrate how much time, effort, money is spent on a service. It is not enough to be able to report on the number of interventions, the number and duration of support calls, personal meetings etc that a service has with a client. These things can be important, and certainly help determine the scale and volumes of support needed and help plan future resourcing. But they don’t give a robust insight into the effectiveness of a service; they don’t tell us if victims and witnesses are getting what they need.

The approach to the commissioning of services for victims of crime varies across England and Wales and this includes the actual timetabling of commissioning. Some PPCs (and, if appropriate, a directly elected mayor) commission on a three year basis, others longer. This year and next many PCCs will be looking to commission (or re-commission) their funded victim services. It would be a positive, and ultimately highly effective approach to make sure that, right from the start, the delivery of identifiable, measurable and person centred outcomes are at the core of what is being commissioned. The framework for commissioning, like all else, needs to have people, victims and survivors at its heart.

If the commissioning of services has the delivery of outcomes as its focus, if those outcomes can be identified, if the service can go on to be able to demonstrate the delivery and effectiveness of these outcomes than we will see a greater level of confidence among victims and survivors and among the public at large; we will see higher and better levels of cooperation and collaboration among service provides and with criminal justice agencies, all of whom will recognise just how effective their services can be and, indeed, are; and we will see a real difference in the lives of those to whom the services are delivered.

In our work with organisations during our Quality Mark assessments we have seen, first hand, the tangible and positive difference and effectiveness victim and outcomes focused services can have in the lives of those supported. If the approach can be built into the service from the very start, i.e. when it is being commissioned, we will go on to see such positive changes being replicated on a wider scale. This is not to say that so many services are not already delivering good support to victims and survivors; it means that from the start we can be sure that this is so, that we can monitor and measure against clear and agreed criteria and that we can identify the effectiveness of outcomes in the lives of service recipients by their ability to cope and recover after their all too often traumatic experiences.