Committee Minutes by gegeshandong


									   Community Safety & Leisure Scrutiny Panel                                          14 January 2009


   A meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel was held on 14 January 2009.

   PRESENT:            Councillor Khan (Chair), Councillors Hobson, Hubbard, McPartland and

   OFFICERS:           S Carr, P Clark, and S Harker.

   **APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE were submitted on behalf of Councillors Biswas, Mawston and

   ** ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Councillor Brunton (Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Board).

   ** PRESENT BY INVITATION: Barbara Valance and Nancy Robson, Victim Support.


   No Declarations of Interest were made at this point of the meeting.


   The minutes of the meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Panel held on 1 December
   2008 were taken as read and approved as a correct record.


   The Senior Scrutiny Officer submitted a report to present the Panel with an outline purpose of the
   meeting. Barbara Valance and Nancy Robson from the Victim Support and the Witness Service
   presented an overview of the organisation.

   Victim Support had merged with a national charity in January 2008 and Victim Support Plus was
   introduced in April 2008 to offer additional practical help to victims by means of a commissioned
   service. The Service was delivered by volunteers and provided emotional support, information,
   sign-posting or referral to other services, advocacy and also practical help such as form filling
   and insurance claims. Victim Support was the only organisation recognised by the Criminal Injury
   Board and there was no charge for helping victims to complete compensation claim forms.

   Court Services delivered by the Witness Service included provision of emotional support and
   information for witnesses, pre-Court visits and orientation, use of the witness suite at Court, and
   support for family and friends.

   Victim Support was available from 8.00 am until 8.00 pm, Monday to Friday, via a single phone
   number, with the service covering Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar and
   Cleveland. The telephone number was available in the local telephone directory, Yellow Pages
   directory, all Police Stations and the organisation also had a web-site. Posters were placed in
   Police Stations, libraries and Doctors’ surgeries advertising Victim Support. Initial contact would
   be with a team of dedicated Victim Care Officers who would assess the needs of the victim.

   Additional practical help offered by the Service included one-off projects which were determined
   on a case-by-case basis. For example, fitting house alarms, providing personal alarms, or
   changing security locks to ensure that victims of domestic abuse or burglary felt safe. In
   emergency situations, the vouchers were provided for food and basic living essentials for victims
   of domestic violence who had no recourse to public funds. Recently a taxi service had been
   provided for a family to make hospital visits to a victim of serious assault, as the family had no
   means of transport.

   Victim Support also worked in partnership with other organisations, such as social landlords,
   community groups and domestic abuse agencies including “My Sister’s Place”. Victim Support
   would advocate on a victim’s behalf, for example if a landlord was unwilling to fit a burglar alarm
   to a victim’s property, the Service might be able to resolve the issue. The Council’s Community

Community Safety & Leisure Scrutiny Panel                                              14 January 2009

Protection Service was currently working with Victim Support and victims of anti-social behaviour
and referrals had been made.

Some victims of crime required professional counselling and this could take up to six weeks to
access. Victim Support was able to provide support and a listening ear to victims until such time
as professional assistance was available.

It was emphasised that Victim Support took referrals regardless of whether or not a crime was
reported to the Police. Victims were always encouraged to report crime and were supported
throughout the process. However, confidentiality was always maintained and victims were not
compelled to report crime to the Police. Confidentiality would only be broken by Victim Support if
it was evident that the victim was in a life-threatening situation. It was felt that it was better for a
victim to report a crime themselves as it could help them to feel more in control of the situation.
On occasion, for example in cases of sexual abuse, crimes were only disclosed after a long
period of time had elapsed. Also, in cases of sexual abuse involving young people, not only the
victim but also their family sometimes needed support to help them deal with the issues.

Victim Support Officers could arrange to go to the Police Station with victims or for them to meet
a Police Officer in another location in order to report the crime if this helped victims to feel more
comfortable. As well as home visits, support could also be offered via telephone or at
independent venues including libraries or community centres. Victim Support was currently
compiling of list of independent venues that could be used. Victim Support was always looking at
different ways of supporting people. Local interpreters had been employed to help with language
barriers with asylum seekers and refugees and also a service called Language Line. Text
messaging had been used to support people with hearing impairment.

Due to the recent re-organisation of Victim Support, figures were not readily available regarding
the number of referrals received. However the Service was very busy and an approximate figure
of around one thousand referrals per month was quoted. The Service was liaising closely with
Police as there was a variation across the Tees Valley area in how Victim Support was viewed by
the Police.

With regard to anti-social behaviour, referrals were usually received from the Police at the point
when anti-social behaviour became a crime. However it was noted that a vast amount of anti-
social behaviour went unreported as victims feared reprisals. If a victim could be encouraged to
speak up and go to Court this would help encourage other members of the community to report

Victim Support and the Witness Service were offered free of charge. The Home Office was the
main source of funding for the Service with contributions locally from Hartlepool and Stockton
Local Authorities. The Service also raised around twenty percent of its budget from fund raising
activities. It was suggested that Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Sub Committee for Grants
to Voluntary Sector could be approached with regard to the possibility of funding.

It was a common misconception that people could not access Victim Support unless they had
reported the crime to the Police and the Service tried hard to promote the fact that it was
independent of the Police. Following re-organisation, Victim Support had been advised that
national marketing material would be produced and this was currently awaited. It was suggested
that the Council’s Street Wardens could assist in promoting the Service and that an article could
be placed in the Middlesbrough Matters magazine.

At the current time there were approximately thirty-five volunteers, four Care Officers and a
Service Manager working for Victim Support across the Tees Valley area. All volunteers
underwent an intensive training programme and all were CRB checked. The Service was
constantly seeking to recruit volunteers and promote its activities.

The Chair thanked the representatives from Victim Support for attending the meeting and for
their informative presentation.

The Senior Scrutiny Support Officer informed the Panel that two Street Wardens would be
attending the next meeting. Members were also reminded that visits to victims of crime in

   Community Safety & Leisure Scrutiny Panel                                       14 January 2009

   Middlesbrough had been arranged for Friday 30 January and Saturday 31 January 2009.        Two
   places were available for Members of the Panel who wished to attend.

   AGREED that:

   1.         Councillors Khan and McPartland would attend the visit to victims of crime on Friday
              30 January 2009.

   2.         Victim Support would provide copies of promotional leaflets about its services for
              circulation to all Members of the Council and Middlesbrough Community Centres.


   The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an
   update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meetings on 3 and 16
   December 2008, namely:-

   3 December 2008
   2 Quarter Revenue Budget Projected Outturn.
   2 Quarter Capital Monitoring and Review.
   Consolidated Performance Clinic Report (April-September 2008).

   16 December 2008

   Attendance of Executive Members at the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
   Executive Member for Children, Families and Learning.
   Medium Term Financial Position 2009/2010 – 2012/2013 and Revenue Budget 2009/2010.
   Middlesbrough Partnership.
   Executive Feedback – Audiology Services.
   Executive Forward Work Programme.
   Economic Regeneration and Transport Scrutiny Panel Final Report – Community Centres.
   Social Care and Adult Services Scrutiny Panel Final Report – Improving Levels of Employment
   for People with Disabilities.
   Consideration of Request for Scrutiny Review – Open Spaces.
   Consideration of Request for Scrutiny Review – BME Community Network.
   Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.
   Any Other Business.


   The next meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel would be held on 4 February
   2009 at 10.30 am.


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