Funding blow to victims of crime

A PIONEERING project that has helped hundreds of young victims of crime in Norfolk to rebuild their lives could grind to a halt because the money is running out.

A PIONEERING project that has helped hundreds of young victims of crime in Norfolk to rebuild their lives could grind to a halt because the money is running out.

The Young Victims' Project was piloted in Norfolk and four other areas and includes adventure holidays for teenage crime victims, one-to-one support and school assemblies to advise on crime prevention.

The government was so impressed with the work that it announced yesterday that it would extend it to a host of youth crime hotspots nationwide.

Norfolk is not among those hotspots, though, and will not get any more government support for the project, which has been described as “vital”.

Now there is a race against time for Victim Support Norwich to find more cash to keep it going before the coffers empty in February or March 2010.

Last night, one teenage crime victim, 19-year-old David from Norwich, who has gone on to help Victim Support to deliver the pilot scheme in Norfolk, said: “It's a great project and would be sorely missed.”

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Kate Biles, area manager for Victim Support in Norfolk, said: “I am thrilled that the importance of our work with young victims has been recognised and will be taken forward nationally.

“Too often young people are seen as a problem when in fact they are actually more at risk from crime than any other sector of the population.”

However, when the pilot came to an end in May, project coordinators were allowed to keep an underspend on the budget to extend the work but that meant reducing paid staff from four to two. There is just enough funding to keep the workers in post until the end of the financial year.

Ms Biles added: I will have to look elsewhere for funding if we want to keep it going.”

She said: “Research has shown that if we do not support young victims they can often face difficulties in later life and go on to offend themselves. We do all we can to keep this vital service going.

“There is clear evidence on the links between victimisation in young people and poor outcomes in later life, and we are keen to extend our work further, but without any sustainable funding may not even be able to keep our current support going.”

She said young people would continue to get help from Victim Support, including one-to-one sessions and schools presentations, with a team of 30 volunteers trained to deliver the work.

But she said there was “no guarantee” that the activity breaks or music holidays would carry on.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “I'm shocked that the government seems to be taking money away from this scheme. If it's been so successful that it's being extended nationally then Norfolk should carry on being a central part of that.

“A lot of people come to me and say it feels that the system is stacked against victims of crime. That can be particularly acute for young victims.”

During the six months of the official pilot, 202 young people received individual personal support and 2,146 young people received more general help through assemblies or anti-bullying lessons in schools, colleges and youth clubs.

The pilot, which also involved Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Criminal Justice Board, also provided victim awareness sessions in Norwich Young Offenders Institute, had a stand in a local shopping centre and set up a Facebook group.

In addition, a DVD was produced, aimed at five-11-year-olds and produced by young people, offering guidance on how young people can stay safe.