On the 13th of October 2015 the Government announced #Budget2016.
The Budget included a welcome increase of 21% in the Victims of Crime Office funding to 1.5 million. There was also an increase in COSC from 1.9 to 2.4 million.
An increase of 21% may appear significant; however, this amounts to an increase in approximately €300,000 for 50 victim support organisations. That is approx. an extra €6,000 per organisation. Some of the VRA member organisations are run solely by volunteers. For example AdVIC, SAH, IRVA have no paid staff and rely on volunteers. There is a sustainability issue with some victim support organisations without the allocation of funding for paid staff. The Victims of Crime office is therefore only providing funding for the expenses of an organisation in certain instances.
Similarly, COSC will provide an extra €500,000 to over 40 organisations, which IF all of it is provided to victim support organisations, when broken down is an extra €12,500 per organisations. This money many be allocated in a different manner.
There are concerns that this increase will not be enough to ensure the provision of information support and protection to victims of crime under the Victims Directive.
Article 8 of the Victims’ Directive is very clear and it provides that support services must be provided ‘free of charge’ for a period ‘before, during and for an appropriate time after criminal proceedings’. Victims support services must also be made available regardless of whether a victim has made a formal complaint to the Gardaí.
The Directive is very clear in relation to what type of support services must be made available. Article 9 (1) of the Directive provides that at a minimum the following must be provided:-
‘(a) information, advice and support relevant to the rights of victims including on accessing national compensation schemes for criminal injuries, and on their role in criminal proceedings including preparation for attendance at the trial;
‘(b) information about or direct referral to any relevant specialist support services in place;
(c) emotional and, where available, psychological support;
(d) advice relating to financial and practical issues arising from the crime;
(e) unless otherwise provided by other public or private services, advice relating to the risk and prevention of secondary and repeat victimisation, of intimidation and of retaliation’.
Also, the Victims Directive provides that the Government must provide specialist support services which at a mimumum must include:-
‘(a) shelters or any other appropriate interim accommodation for victims in need of a safe place due to an imminent risk of secondary and repeat victimisation, of intimidation and of retaliation;
(b) targeted and integrated support for victims with specific needs, such as victims of sexual violence, victims of gender-based violence and victims of violence in close relationships, including trauma support and counselling’.
The question then arises whether an additional €300,000 will be enough to provide these services to all victims of crime & whether an additional €500,000 is enough to provide the specialist services to victims of gender based violence.
This is something which will be mentioned by the VRA coordinator, Maria McDonald BL, to the Justice Committee on the 21st of October 2015.
Given that we are presenting before the Justice Committee next week I would like your views as to whether this increase is enough? Please give your views on twitter @MMcDonald_bl