Extra support for crime victims during pandemic
Justice Secretary announces £100,000 ‘victims fund’ to help those in need.
Victims of crime struggling financially amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will be able to access assistance worth up to £3,000, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has announced.
A victims’ fund of £100,000 will help meet immediate financial needs of victims, paying for a wide range of goods and services where they have no other access to funds.
Victim Support Scotland (VSS), which will administer the fund, already provides financial support totalling £30,000 a year through the Scottish Government-backed ‘victims’ fund’. The new enhanced fund increases this to £100,000 and is available to victims supported by other organisations as well as VSS.
Following discussions with a range of victims organisations about the immediate and potential impact of the current national crisis and public health response – particularly on some of Scotland’s most vulnerable victims of crime – the Scottish Government has increased the size of the fund for the new financial year by £70,000.
Mr Yousaf said:
“Across the country, we are seeing incredible acts of courage and self-sacrifice as we all strive to keep our loved-ones and our communities safe in this public health emergency.
“However, for victims of crime, the impact of their own experience can be long-lasting – even before we consider the understandable anxiety that they will be feeling, along with most of us, about the coronavirus outbreak.
“While overall crime, including non-sexual violent crime, has fallen substantially over the last decade, we know that those living in our most disadvantaged communities are more likely to experience crime.
“That is why I’ve decided to increase our investment in the victims fund and help deliver a range of goods and services which are likely to be required by the most vulnerable victims during the outbreak. This includes support such as food vouchers, help with utility bills, as well as assistance for domestic abuse victims who may have to urgently leave their homes.
“The fund will also be able to help with other costs which have arisen as a direct result of being a victim of crime such as contributions towards insurance excesses, improved home security, and replacement windows, doors and furniture.”
Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, said:
“The increase to the victims’ fund is hugely beneficial at this time when people are social distancing, self-isolating and spending more time online. Isolation, in particular, can impact people affected by crime as their support networks may not be available in the same ways as before. We expect certain crime types to rise, such as fraud, cybercrime, stalking and domestic, child and elderly abuse. The fund will allow us to be adaptive and responsive to individual victim’s needs.
“These are challenging times which have the potential to greatly affect victims. Victim Support Scotland is committed to providing practical help and emotional support to anyone affected by crime during the coronavirus outbreak and has increased helpline and webchat services. We encourage anyone who needs support to get in touch.”
Victim Support Scotland provide free emotional and practical support for victims and witnesses of crime. Their Freephone helpline number is 0800 160 1985 and their website is http://www.victimsupport.scot.
Victim Support Scotland’s current victims fund is available now. The enhanced fund will be available from 1 April 2020. It is administered by Victim Support Scotland and used to cover the costs of goods and services for people affected by crime across Scotland.
Victim Support Scotland are working closely with other victim support organisations, such as Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid, to ensure financial support through the victims fund is available for a wide range of victims.
The Scottish Government introduced a new Victim Surcharge in November 2019, which will go towards a fund to pay for short-term and practical help to those harmed by crime – such as replacing broken windows and locks for victims of house-breaking, or help towards funeral expenses for families bereaved by crime. The Victims’ Surcharge Fund (VSF) - which requires offenders to contribute to the cost of supporting victims of crime - will, in time, accumulate growing funds in order to meet the type of costs that the VSS victims’ fund currently meet. The VSF is expected to open to applications in late 2020.