Shake-up of services leads to 13 redundancies at Victim Support

Another 14 jobs could go after the charity failed to win contracts to supply services in two English regions

Victim Support at work
Victim Support at work

Victim Support has made 13 redundancies and another 14 jobs are at risk after the charity was unsuccessful in its bids for contracts to deliver victim services in two separate English regions.

The situation has developed because of a shake-up of victim services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, under which contracts worth more than £60m a year, previously awarded by the Ministry of Justice, are being handled by newly created regional Police and Crime Commissioners.

A spokeswoman for Victim Support said that in the 42 PCC districts it had won contracts in all but three areas: Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire and Northumbria.

The Leicestershire contract was won by Catch 22. The Victim Support spokeswoman said: "It is too early to say what will happen to those members of our team in Leicestershire who are currently delivering the crime victim service when it transfers to a different charity in September. Fourteen of our employees have been informed their roles are at risk; our employees working on other services are not affected."

In Northumbria, the contract was awarded to the newly created organisation Victims First Northumbria, which took effect from 1 April.

Victim Support, which had been running this service, made 13 redundancies as a result, although a spokeswoman for Northumbria PCC said that an unspecified number of former Victim Support staff had successfully applied for new jobs at VFN. She said that VFN had made an application for charitable status to the Charity Commission.

Companies House records show the two directors of VFN are Vera Baird, who is also the elected head of the PCC for Northumbria, and Sue Sim, chief constable of Northumbria Police.

Keith Vaz, chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, quoted in an article yesterday in the Daily Mirror, criticised this apparent conflict of interest, saying: "It is totally inappropriate for a PCC to set up any organisation in which they have an interest of whatever kind using public money."

A statement from Baird defended the decision, saying she looked at several options for service provision. "All Ministry of Justice procedures and protocols were adhered to," she said.

A spokesman for the MoJ said: "We urgently contacted the office of Northumbria PCC to assure ourselves they had complied with requirements of the Victims Services Grant. At this stage there is no suggestion these terms have not been complied with."

He added that the MoJ would look "very carefully" at any new information received about the matter.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "We recently received an application from Victims First Northumbria to register as a charity. We are currently assessing this application and will be contacting the trustees for further information required to process the application. We will be highlighting the issue of conflicts of interest as part of this communication."

Services previously delivered by Victim Support in Cambridgeshire are now being run in-house by the Cambridgeshire PCC. In this case, staff were transferred between the organisations with no redundancies.

In the year to 31 March 2014, £39.4m of Victim Support’s total income of £50.2m came from the MoJ. The charity employed 1,257 staff in the year.

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