JANUARY is a busy month for a charity which supports victims of crime, following from the Christmas period when families’ get-togethers can lead to fall-outs.
Victim Support, which has a base in Burton, is celebrating 40 years this month
Trevor Carruthers, 54, is the service delivery manager for Victim Support South East Staffordshire and operates from the charity’s voluntary services centre in Union Street.
He has spent five years in the role and used to be a unit manager at Dovegate prison, supporting offenders.
Trevor said: “It is quite a stark contrast going from supporting offenders to supporting victims. You don’t understand the effect a crime can have on someone. Offenders can make a fresh start but a crime can stick with a victim for life. When the time of year that the crime took place comes round again it can bring back memories.”
Hundreds of victims of crime were helped by Victim Support last year in Burton and areas including Tamworth. The central case unit is based in Birmingham and all of the cases are filtered out from there.
There are two arms to the work carried out by volunteers for victim support. . Through its witness outreach programme members of staff liaise with volunteers to put together, go to home visits to explain the court process to victims and attend court with them.
A community branch, and helping people involved in cases that are heard at Burton Magistrates’ Court. Their involvement at court sees them offer support for the day of the case, whereas the community branch of it sees a case worker spend more time with the victim as they are waiting for their case to go to trial.
Cases can include some horrific circumstances such as the relatives of people who have been stabbed and there are teams that deal specifically with murder and manslaughter cases. This is something that wasn’t put in motion in the beginning. This will see them work with cases with family liaison officers and the police who will introduce them to a victim support volunteer.
“Every day is different,’ said Trevor, at the end of the day you have to shut off. You think ‘have I done enough?
“Cases can have a rippling effect on the whole community.
“We deal with a lot of domestic violence cases and high profile cases, supporting witnesses and victims.”
He explained that the charity had changed over the years and a big part of victim support today that was not in place originally is restorative justice which dealing with issues such as neighbourly disputes, burglaries and assault.
Restorative justice sees mediation take place between the parties, with Victim Support helping to come up with a solution to the issues. There is a big push on dealing with crimes such as anti-social behaviour this way this as it avoids the need for a costly court case.
“You have to move with the trend of the criminal justice system, said Trevor, ‘If less cases are coming through you have to be flexible, or if it goes the other way we have to accommodate that too.
“We were also involved with a recent RSPCA case, supporting vets and professionals and familiarising them with the court. Many people have not been in a court before and are not used to it.”
Ten volunteers are needed for South East Staffordshire, to add to the 16 that are there at the moment.
Trevor said: ““Our charity is built on our volunteers , without them we couldn’t continue to do all the positive work for victims and witnesses of crime. Volunteers give their time for free and we rely on their dedication to deliver the very best support.”
“Volunteers give free and confidential information, emotional support and practical help whether or not the crime has been reported to the police. There are currently trained volunteers in the area working hard to maintain this vital service, but the charity wants to do more and needs more volunteers.
“The charity’s volunteers are essential to its work and outnumber staff by about four to one. As well as supporting victims in the community or supporting witnesses at court.s they also help in other areas including administration and fund-raising.”
Volunteer Natalie, said: ‘I volunteer on the frontline giving emotional support to victims of crime. It gives me a real sense of achievement when I have been able to make a significant difference to somebody’s life and prove there is caring side in today’s society.”
Victim Support is partly funded by the Government but also has fund-raising events to keep it going.
People who want to volunteer will need to undergo training to support victims of crime.
“Volunteers need to be someone who can show empathy and wants to help others, or who has been a victim of crime before, said Trevor.
To find out more about becoming a volunteer contact Trevor on 01283 515213.