Dedicated Support for Older Victims of Crime
Based next to Blackwood Police Station, Connect Gwent is a multi-agency service which aims to provide positive and lasting support to all victims of crime. The service was launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gwent, Ian Johnston, in May 2015.
The commissioned service provider within Connect Gwent is Victim Support who is working under the same roof as a range of other key referral partners and agencies. This includes New Pathways, an organisation which helps adults and children that have been subjected to sexual abuse; Embrace - the national charity which supports child victims of crime up to the age of 18 and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
Supported by the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, a mental health nurse is also based within the hub to deal with mental health referrals relating to victims of crime.
Age Cymru is the latest referral partner to establish a presence at Connect Gwent in order to provide specific specialist support for older victims of crime. The aim of the visit from the Older People's Commissioner's for Wales, Sarah Rochira, was to look at the Gwent model and discuss ways of building stronger partnerships to improve victim services for older people throughout Wales. The Commissioner saw for herself how those unfortunate to become victims of crime in Gwent can now access a range of comprehensive services under one roof which aims to address their individual needs and prevent them from falling between gaps in provision.
During her visit she was taken on a tour of the facility by the Commissioner and the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Paul Harris. She also had the opportunity to meet individuals from some of the other agencies who are based under the same roof to ensure victims are supported inside and outside the criminal justice process in Gwent.
The early signs are more than encouraging for Connect Gwent with victim referrals increasing by over 1,700 or 35.7% in comparison with the same period over three months the previous year (from 4,850 to 6,585) before it opened. This means that more victims of crime in Gwent are now accessing this new and enhanced provision. And the figures for the 12 months ending June 2015 also show a 3.1% increase in the 'overall satisfaction' of crime victims in the service they receive in comparison with the previous year (from 78.0% to 81.2%).
The Older People's Commissioner believes there is not yet sufficient understanding within public services and society generally, of the nature of abuse faced by older people and the circumstances that lead to older people becoming particularly vulnerable or at risk.
Recent figures published by her office show that more than 40,000 older people in Wales are victims of abuse and neglect every year and that 6% of people in Wales aged 66 and over have suffered abuse in their own homes. The Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales Annual Report 2012-13 also reports that 888 concerns were raised with them about care in 405 care settings. The most common concerns raised were about the neglect of service users, protection and physical abuse of service users and concerns about the behaviour and attitude of management.
She believes there needs to be a systematic approach to identifying those who are at risk and all older people who are at risk must have access to effective safeguarding support, similar to the provision at Connect Gwent.
Commenting during the visit, she said: "I was delighted to come and visit Connect Gwent. Having attended the launch a short while ago I wanted to come and meet the people who provide specialist support for victims. Many older people who are the victims of crime struggle to access the support they need at a time when they may be particularly vulnerable. That's why services like Connect Gwent, which bring together key support organisations, are so important.
This is definitely the kind of innovative service which should be rolled out to other parts of Wales and I hope this won't be the only one of its kind. As a result of the care, compassion and support of the dedicated staff who work here from multiple agencies, there are older people who are now safe and who are no longer afraid. Older people are amongst some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and having someone from Age Cymru here is hugely important and adds to the knowledge and thinking which is growing here. This joined up approach is exactly what good public service looks like and is a model of good practice that could be adopted in other parts of Wales."
Welcoming the visit from the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston said: "Victims are at the heart of everything we do and Connect Gwent is all about taking a joined up approach and ensuring people have greater access to the support they need. The service is growing from strength to strength and I am delighted to welcome Age Cymru on board as one of the latest referral partners. Older victims of crime are among the most vulnerable people in the community and they often need more support to access the help that they need. It's all about putting the victim first and addressing people's individual needs, whether they have chosen to report the crime to the police or not."
For further information about Connect Gwent and the support available, please visit www.connectgwent.org.uk