Victim Support forced to close two branches

Victim Support is facing a financial crisis that will result in branch closures and redundancies after the Home Office refused to allocate the charity any more funds.

Two local branches will close in the next few weeks as emergency cost-cutting plans are drawn up in an attempt to limit further damage.

"Although we currently receive £30 million in government funding we need double that to be able to run our services efficiently," said Paul Fawcett, head of communications at Victim Support.

"We simply cannot continue to launch new schemes and keep up with the ever-increasing numbers of victims that need our help, and cuts will have to be made."

Fawcett says that the results of last week's Public Affairs Committee report into the organisation show that the Government will never achieve an effective national victim and witness service if it doesn't commit more funds to the charity.

It had hoped that the report, which followed a National Audit Office inquiry into the organisation's relationship with the Home Office, would flag up the need for additional funding to support its work helping victims of crime.

Victim Support is increasingly involved in helping to run and manage government schemes to tackle crime. It is also engaged in talks with the Home Office over its status with new legislation on victims' rights due to appear in a draft bill later this year.

Yet despite its closer relationship with the Government, it has received no additional statutory funding to achieve this.

"Even though we are obviously part of the mix of victim support services, we are suffering from a real-time cut of around 3 per cent in our funding for 2003/4, whereas other criminal justice statutory bodies have been given significant increases," said Fawcett.

"Most people in the voluntary sector are on abominable wages but still do the job because they have a commitment to the work, and I think this is an example of this goodwill being exploited."

Victim Support, which helps more than 14,000 people who apply to the Government's criminal injuries compensation scheme, could limit the damage by increasing its voluntary income. The charity pulls in £1 million through public fundraising, but has found it difficult to get people to recognise that the organisation needs funds to survive.

"I think the general public either believes that we are already a public service or don't think that it's up to them to give money to tackle crime because that's the responsibility of the Government," said Fawcett.

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