There is concern during the pandemic, that not only is there an increase in domestic and sexual violence, but it is proving more difficult for the victim survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault gaining support. In response to this concern the government has announced further funding, in summer 2020, of an additional £22 million of emergency funding to help organisations deliver additional support. This additional funding will be welcomed by the hundreds of charities that will benefit from the government support and, equally importantly, the victim survivors who desperately need life-saving counselling and advice services. It will supplement the Government funding announced by the Ministry of Justice in February 2020 to provide specific support for victims of rape, including the recruitment of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors.
In September 2020 the government went further and announced that it was doubling the financial support to help survivors and victims, providing grants totalling £2.4 million, to address increasing demand on voluntary organisations during the pandemic crisis. The Support for Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Fund aims to assist national organisations in supporting both adult and child victims and survivors of child sexual abuse across England and Wales, with several organisations also providing support to parents, carers and family members.
The Victims Minister, Alex Chalk said, “victims of domestic and sexual abuse showed immense courage in coming forward and seeking help-so it is vital that support is available when they need it. This funding boost will help frontline charities to continue their valuable work, supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society during these difficult times.”
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said, in respect of the September announcement, “victims and survivors of child sexual abuse demonstrate enormous courage in coming forward to seek help and we want to make sure help is available when they need it. This funding is delivering on the promises the government made at the Hidden Harms Summit to protect vulnerable children from abuse and help survivors rebuild their lives”.
I agree that the additional funding will help charities in delivering the vital services although, as always, I’m concerned that the funding, whilst appreciated for short-term support, does not meet the medium and long-term challenges that victim survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse experience. In some cases, they will be able to pursue a sexual violence compensation claim against those responsible for meting out domestic and sexual violence. Unfortunately, sexual assault compensation claims and domestic violence compensation claims cannot always be pursued and therefore the Government must consider providing even further support to deliver long term counselling, therapy and advice sessions for those most in need.
There are many organisations offering support to victim survivor. It is important for those most in need to understand that such support exists. Therefore, I applaud the Home Office public awareness campaign, launched back in April 2020, under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone. This campaign promotes advice that anyone at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse were still able to leave and seek refuge.
In a separate announcement the government has pledged a “major overhaul” of the courts which will include domestic abuse victims being able to enter court through a separate entrance, so they do not come into contact with their alleged abuser. In addition, victim survivors will be given separate waiting rooms and protective screens, to shield them from the alleged abuse in court. This is welcome news.
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