Rape and domestic abuse services get millions in support amid surge in calls

Almost £11 million has been announced to help services support victims of rape and domestic abuse through the winter after charities reported a 46% rise in calls during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said charities had reported a sharp increase in demand during the pandemic, with some victims feeling at greater risk of harm or deciding to report abuse for the first time.

The cash will go towards a range of services offering practical and emotional help, the MoJ said, allowing organisations to recruit more staff, adapt to remote counselling methods during the pandemic and keep helplines open for longer.

A further £7 million will go towards programmes aimed at stopping the offences happening in the first place.

And an updated set of rights for victims of crime will provide “much needed clarity” on the offence-reporting process and make it easier and more transparent, according to campaigners.

The new Victims’ Code, which comes into force on April 1, 2021, highlights the need for more support to be given to survivors of domestic abuse and violence in England and Wales.

Justice minister Alex Chalk told ITV News: "One of the really awful aspects of this pandemic is we know that the need in respect of potential victims of rape and domestic abuse has soared.

"We want to make sure the funding is there for people, so people understand if they're the victims of rape or domestic abuse they don't need to suffer in silence, they're not alone."

He added: "The resources are there, whether its through the police or whether its through community support, to ensure that they can get the protection they need from these horrific crimes."The Victims' Code stipulates that victims of crimes have the right to be given information that is easy to understand at all stages of the process, with extra support provided if necessary.

This includes information about the trial process, their role as a witness if necessary, and outcome of the case.

Where appropriate, victims will also be automatically referred to the Victim Contact Scheme, which provides updates on the progress of a convicted offender and their eligibility for release or parole.

The code also highlights the right to have details of a crime recorded “without unjustified delay,” adding that “the number of interviews should be kept to a minimum and where possible be conducted by the same person”.

It adds that victims should receive support with regard to claiming compensation and expenses.

Both the additional funding support services and the Victims’ Code have been welcomed by campaigners, though concerns have been raised that the measures do not go far enough.

Lisa King, director of communications and external relations for domestic violence charity Refuge, said: “Refuge welcomes this new funding pot for rape and domestic abuse services.

“The Covid-19 crisis has amplified what we already know – that funds are urgently needed to ensure vital frontline services are able to plan ahead.

“Of course this new funding is welcome, but it isn’t the long term solution so desperately needed.”