Rape Crisis opposes plans to abolish Central Government funding for specialist services.
The Government recently consulted on its proposals for the future of victims’ and witnesses’ support services. These proposals recognise the necessity of specialist support services for survivors of sexual violence. Adequate and sustainable funding to Rape Crisis Centres is essential if this priority is to be met.
One of the Government’s key proposals is to abolish the UK's only central sexual violence fund, the Rape Support Fund, in favour of a move to local commissioning of services, probably by the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. Rape Crisis is really concerned about this. Local funding decisions should equal better, more appropriate services but when Rape Crisis Centres were previously dependent on local funding this was not the case.
Rape Crisis Centres are just emerging from a lengthy period of closures and financial instability. A wholesale return to local commissioning would jeopardise the very real gains made for Rape Crisis Centres in recent years and a return to the position of unequal service provision for survivors where access to specialised support is more a privilege than a right.
Our fear is that the new Police and Crime Commissioners will focus only on reported crime when they commission local support services. As 90% of the women and girls that use Rape Crisis Centres do not report to the police, this could mean Rape Crisis Centres are not funded.
We know that the human and financial cost of sexual violence on survivors, their families, and the whole community is heavy and long-term, and we believe our services should be central to the Government's aim of strengthening support to victims. Whilst we acknowledge the competing pressures on the resources of both the Government and local authorities in the current financial climate, what we know from our experience over the last 30 year is that a reliance on local funding brings with it the real risk of survivors needs being unmet, hidden and unheard.
The Government recently acknowledged the need for secure, centrally held funding for Rape Crisis Centres when Crispin Blunt, the Justice Minister, said on Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’:
‘We’re looking at giving them (Local Police and Crime Commissioners) the budget for victim support services in their area - for some (services), not all - not homicide and probably not for rape because we think there's definitely a case for homicide services for the bereaved being delivered at national level and that's probably the case for rape support centres as well.’ (29th March)
The consultation outcome is likely to be released in June. For more details please go to the Ministry of Justice website https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/victims-witnesses