The national champion for victims and witnesses of crime has spoken about the impact of offences on children at the official launch of a new service in Yorkshire to help youngsters.
Baroness Helen Newlove said it was vital to give people under 18 access to support after crime, an issue that has been close to her heart since her daughters witnessed the murder of their father, her husband Garry, in 2007.
Speaking at the launch of new victims’ services for West Yorkshire, she said: “It’s very important that we are looking at children.
“It is something I have been very passionate about because of my daughters. It’s important that we give children somewhere to go where they can speak in confidence and feel safe.”
The Baroness, who is the Victims’ Commisioner for England and Wales, joined the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson at the official launch event for new West Yorkshire victims’ services in Wakefield today.
It came three months after Mr Burns-Willimson awarded a three-year £3.6m contract to charity Victim Support to continue to help victims and witnesses in the county, including working directly with those aged 18 and under for the first time.
Baroness Newlove said: “It is important to ensure each of their voices are listened to.
“We have to recognise that they are children. They are vulnerable. They often don’t know how to handle what has happened to them. They don’t know what to ask, what to do.”
Lesley McLean, the contracts manager for Victim Support, added: “Children can be very affected by crime both physically and emotionally.
“But they might not want to say they are fearful for example to their mum and dad. They may want to pretend to be okay.
“Having somebody independent to talk to can have a huge impact. If they don’t have someone, their thoughts could build and grow.”
Baroness Newlove, who wants to see vulnerable victims given their own advocate to support them through recovery, agreed, adding that she and her daughters tried to protect each other.
Stressing the importance of supporting children and building relationships with victims and witnesses, she said: “It’s a very difficult world to speak in, it’s a very strange world. But we’ve got to encourage them.”
A specialist team of children and young people workers are now in place in West Yorkshire.
The new Victim Support contract also means people can now access services even if they haven’t reported the crime to police.
Other changes include the introduction of a webchat as another way for people to get help and advice, alongside victim support hubs in Bradford, Shipley, Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield. One will also open in Halifax in the coming months.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I am very pleased Baroness Newlove was able to come and see the excellent work taking place to ensure new and improved services for victims now including help for those aged under 18.
“Many people affected by crime often feel unable to get the help they need, whether or not they wish to report it to the police, so these new services and contracts will ensure that wider support and make more options are available.”