There has been considerable improvement over the past few years in services that help support those affected by crime. There were an estimated 6.4 million incidents of crime experienced by adults over the age of 16 in the year ending July 2016; with so many people affected, it is essential that the support provided meets a minimum standard that properly supports victims. From an assessment of the Crime Survey England and Wales (CSEW), it was found that ‘overall, almost a fifth of incidents resulted in the victim wanting support (19 per cent of incidents in the 2008/09 CSEW); the proportion of incidents where the victim reported receiving support was lower (9 per cent of incidents).’ We must aim to ensure that those who wish to receive support are able to secure the care they need. Not only this, if support is to reach those who most need it, we must better understand why only a fifth of victims seem to want that support; is there more to be done to improve the access to support networks and information communicated to those affected by crime?
The current landscape in criminal justice is one that shows a complex network of agencies competing for funding to provide support to victims; this can lead to a duplication of service provision and, potentially, confusion, particularly for those needing to access services. Commissioners are increasingly looking for evidence to demonstrate the quality of the service delivered in order both to determine, from a funding point of view, which organisations would be the most effective, and offer value for money. With more organisations than ever applying for funding, there is an increasing need for an independent body to assess the quality of front-line victim services. Currently, the Restorative Justice Council provide the RSQM for restorative justice services in the UK – this has been a proven success in the specific field and has helped drive up standards as well as informing commissioners about which organisations deliver quality restorative justice services. It seems logical that, after the success of the RSQM, there should be provision of an independent quality mark and standards for all victim services.
In 2012, the Government stated its intention to develop an outcome-focused commissioning framework for victim services in the UK. The aim of this was to help victims cope directly with the initial impact of the crime and then to recover from the harm they experienced. With this in mind, there was an intention to increase the accountability of service providers and commissioners of victim services. If providers were held accountable for the support they provided, the standards they delivered would be likely to be driven up which would be a substantial benefit for victims of crime. This would also provide a clear incentive to commissioners to make sure they were focusing their resources in the most appropriate and effective services.
In identifying victims’ needs, research carried out by the Ministry of Justice, Evidence of Practice Review of support for victims and outcome measurement, concluded that there were six broad categories of need that must be addressed to support victims of crime effectively: Information; safety and protection from re-victimisation; practical support; emotional support; support navigating the criminal justice system; and respect and fair treatment. Moreover, the research carried out found that outcome measurements of organisations varied considerably; some invested a lot of time and effort in implementing outcome-focussed approaches, whereas some had not considered ‘outcomes’ in any detail. From these findings, as well as an abundance of further research and numerous pieces of legislation both in the UK and the EU, we can conclude there is a need for a quality mark.
Supporting Justice are proud to have launched the first ever national quality mark for victims services. The Victims Choice Quality Mark will assess victim services against five standards of victim care. This quality mark will offer both providers and commissioners of services an independent verification of the quality and effectiveness of those services. In addition, it overcomes the issues of ‘no one size fits all’ and the variations across the sector in capacity and infrastructure – the quality mark does not look at organisational and systemic issues (as many assessments and inspections might), but at the services provided to the people with whom it engages; it is an outcome, rather than output, model.
Supporting Justice’s Victims Choice Quality Mark is an innovative development within the victims’ arena and it will help improve and advance the quality of care that victims receive from service providers. Not only this, it will help commissioners determine if their precious resources are being targeted and spent effectively. And, perhaps, not least it will help improve the confidence of those who may, through no fault of their own, find themselves needing to access support services in the future.