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Victims 'to suffer twice with cuts'

More than £20 million will be wasted on "red tape and paper pushing" as innocent victims "needlessly suffer twice" under the Government's plans to reform support services, a charity has said.

Victim Support said £21 million would be wasted on commissioning costs under plans to hand control of budgets to new police and crime commissioners (PCCs).

The move is part of Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's overhaul of victims' services to "create a speedier, more supportive system for victims of serious crime".

But Victim Support said the cost of the new PCCs commissioning local services would account for 18% of the funding for victims' services, almost double the Government's own estimate of 10%, or £12 million.

But even under the Government's lower estimate, the move would mean the loss of intensive support for 25,000 victims of domestic violence and 20,000 victims of anti-social behaviour, the charity said. It would also mean the loss of 100,000 personal attack alarms which are currently given to victims of street crime, it added.

Javed Khan, the charity's chief executive, said: "It's making innocent victims needlessly suffer twice. We have serious concerns about plans to break up existing, secure and locally based ways of helping them in favour of what will inevitably be a more expensive, fragmented and inefficient system.

"It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel by asking police and crime commissioners to purchase services for victims. Victim Support has been successfully giving help to victims and witnesses for nearly 40 years. It is simply unacceptable that they could lose out on support to the value of £21 million because of additional red tape and paper pushing."

The charity also launched an e-petition on the Government's website, calling for it to reconsider the plans. It added that Victim Support's network of almost 7,000 trained volunteers would also be broken up, saying this would make it harder in large-scale criminal incidents for the police and local authorities to rely on consistent local support.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, said: "Police officers are often the first port of call for victims of crime and see the extreme distress and anxiety many experience; for many, over months and years. The Government has a duty of care to ensure that appropriate and suitable help and resources are made available for victims of crime. We therefore support the call by Victim Support for the Government to rethink their plans which could have a detrimental effect on people when they need help the most."

A Government spokeswoman said: "We currently spend £66 million a year supporting victims and witnesses of crime, and our proposals will raise up to £50 million extra. This will increase, not reduce, the support and help on offer."

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