Victim Support Scotland publishes 2019-20 annual report
Victim Support Scotland has published our annual report for 2019-20, highlighting the impact we have made in the last year, as well as our response to the coronavirus pandemic and the effect it has had on people affected by crime.
Kate Wallace, Victim Support Scotland CEO, said:
“2020 marks 35 years since VSS was created. Much has changed since the 1980s and VSS has moved with the times by embracing new ways of engaging and supporting victims affected by all crime types.
“Over the last year, we have worked hard to transform the organisation so that we are better equipped to support victims and witnesses in ways that suit their needs within today’s ever-changing Scotland.“
Highlights from the report, which covers the 12 months from 1 April 2019, are detailed below.
Deliver: Supporting people affected by crime
We provided emotional and practical support to over 15,900 people across Scotland, helping them to access information, feel safer following a crime and navigate the criminal justice system. In courts across the country, we supported over 21,510 vulnerable witnesses, including children and victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and stalking, helping them to give their best evidence at court.
We launched our new Support for Families Bereaved by Crime service in April 2019, which provides a nationally consistent, reliable service to families following murder and culpable homicide. We also expanded our digital support services by introducing a webchat service and launching a new website.
We built strong local partnerships across the country, including our work with Police Scotland, supporting national and local campaigns and sharing crime trend data to improve services. We also trained over 1,100 police probationers, focussing on the impact of crime and how our services can help.
We worked with support organisations across the sector, to keep victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system. We took the lead in the ‘Victim-Centred Approach’ workstream in the Scottish Government’s Victims’ Taskforce. The years’ greatest achievement was our successful £1.5 million bid with Children 1st, Children England and the University of Edinburgh, for a bespoke house for child victims and witnesses of crime.
Improving the rights of people affected by crime remains the focus of our policy and influencing work. Throughout the year, we have presented evidence to the Scottish Parliament and responded to consultations on victim impact statements, the Victim Surcharge Fund, transforming the parole system and more.
Victims Awareness Week is our foremost event of the year, providing an opportunity to highlight issues affecting victims and witnesses. This year, we launched our most successful campaign in recent years, ‘Your rights, your code’, to increase awareness of people’s rights under the Victims’ Code for Scotland. We also took the campaign to our first parliamentary reception at the Scottish Parliament.
“It is vital that we continue to stand up for people affected by crime and work towards positive and meaningful improvements to our services, as well as a justice system which puts the needs of victims and witnesses first.”
Jon Turner, Victim Support Scotland Chair
This year, we have invested substantially in learning and development support for our employees and volunteers, adapting existing courses and created new digital learning resources. We continue to develop our volunteers and work to the national Investing in Volunteers standard, accreditation we gained early in 2019.
Throughout the last year, VSS has continued to build an organisational culture that is positive and forward looking. We are committed to developing our equalities strategy and launched an Equalities Forum with volunteer and employee involvement. Our national conference in November 2019 was the first time that colleagues had come together since the organisational restructure and was a resounding success.
Impact of Covid-19 on VSS
COVID-19 and the lockdown measures have significantly impacted VSS and our services. We moved quickly to expand our digital services, transferring from face-to-face support to telephone and online support during the pandemic.
Due to early court closures, we are supporting many witnesses who have reported increased physical, psychological and emotional impact, including anxiety, stress and depression, due to the delay of their trial.
The financial situation of many victims of crime during the restrictions has been affected, so we successfully bid for an additional £70k for our Victims’ Fund in order to meet the immediate needs of a greater of people.
You can find the full full Annual Report here.