The UK government has released £5m (€5.64m) in funding for sexual assault support services as part of a move to ease survivors’ engagement with the justice system.
The augmented funding, which represents an increase of 50%, will go towards shoring up a range of services offering support and counselling for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. £1m will be invested in recruitment of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs), who offer sexual assault support and advice to survivors navigating the justice system; and who will be subject to a new set of minimum standards to ensure the support they provide is consistent and high quality.
Amelia Handy of Rape Crisis England and Wales said: “Rape Crisis England and Wales is encouraged by the announcement of much-needed additional funding for specialist Rape Crisis Centres, and by the Government’s recognition for specialist services for victims and survivors. Last year nearly 80,000 individuals accessed Rape Crisis services, meaning this funding uplift will contribute towards specialist Rape Crisis service delivery at a time when need, demand and service provision are at unprecedented levels.”
The new funding comes as part of the government’s Rape Victims’ Pledge to direct more funding and support to services for survivors of rape and sexual assault, with the aim of reducing the distress and disruption survivors experience when engaging with the criminal justice system. The government has also declared its commitment to boost legislative support for survivors, with plans to consult on the development of a new Victims’ Law and implement revisions to the existing Victims’ Code in 2020.
Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird QC said: “Complainants of rape and sexual assault who have the courage to report their experience demonstrate immense bravery and must be given all the support they need so that justice can be done. I very much welcome this additional funding but there is much more to do, including improving the way police and prosecutors handle these horrific crimes. I welcome the government’s commitment to bring forward the long-awaited Victims’ Law and updates to the Victims’ Code early in 2020. Backing up current rights with legislation and strong implementation will ensure justice is improved.”