A “LIFELINE” service in Sunderland for victims of crime is to close.
Victim Support’s Sunderland base will be shut down after police and crime commissioner Vera Baird decided to divert its funding and set up a new charity – Victims First – on April 1.
The changes come after the Ministry of Justice changed the way it funds victims’ services, instead giving police and crime commissioners money to provide them.
The new organisation will provide support via telephone, email and visits, according to what is in the best interests of the victim, Mrs Baird’s office confirmed. However, they were unable to confirm, when asked by the Echo, whether there will be a permanent base on Wearside.
A Sunderland woman said the service is a lifeline for her husband and daughters who were victims of Hendon paedophile George Robinson.
The 64-year-old, formerly of Athol Road, was jailed for 16 years in 2012, and another four years last year, for rapes and sex assaults
“We got a phone call out of the blue to say the office in Toward Road would be closing,” the mum said.
“I know of a lot of people, who I have met going there, and nobody else understands.
“It has literally been a lifeline for my family. My husband wouldn’t talk about what’s happened to anyone, but he is really starting to open up now.
“This is the only place we can go.”
Victim Support is now hoping that its skilled staff and volunteers, based in Toward Road in Hendon, will be transferred to the new organisation, to ensure continuity for victims.
“The decision by the Northumbria Office of the Crime Commissioner (OPCC) to create a new service for victims of crime has left our charity with a significant shortfall in funding,” a Victim Support spokeswoman said.
“As a result, we will unfortunately be closing our office in Sunderland.
“We are having detailed discussions with the OPCC about the future of our skilled and experienced staff and volunteers who we hope will all be able to transfer to the new service so there is no impact on the quality of support available for victims.
“Our priority in the coming weeks is to ensure victims continue to receive an excellent service from our charity which will continue to deliver a range of other services across the county in the future.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “We held a meeting last week at Bede Tower in Sunderland with Victim Support and other people from the voluntary and community sector and, as we told them, we are carrying out an exciting new project. We discussed this with them and they were very keen on the proposals.
“We have also held other meeting with representatives in other areas of the force to discuss these new important developments.”
Victims First will be independent from Northumbria Police, working with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, and will link in with existing services and voluntary groups already working in the force area. Discussions with victims’ service providers in the region are ongoing.
Hendon ward Coun Barbara McClennan said: “Sadly this is another example of the impact the austerity measures and reduction in funding is having on the voluntary sector.
“Victim Support has a long record of success in the city, working with people in very difficult times of their lives and I hope that what ever or whoever replaces it can work to the same standards for the benefit of the people of our city.”