Victims of crime can now turn to help 24 hours a day with the launch of a live chat support service.
Independent charity Victim Support provides practical and emotional support to 5,000 Essex residents each month who have witnessed or become a victim of a crime.
While nine case workers and a band of volunteers offer face-to-face and telephone support between the hours of 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday as well as evenings and weekends as required, there is the obvious need to be available outside of those times – particularly making initial contact with victims when needed – even if it is in the middle of the night or early hours of a morning
Requests for support can be submitted via the organisation’s website out of hours, or calls put through to a Supportline. But, it was felt a more immediate and personal provision needed to be set up.
So, the live chat service – where help is on hand online day or night – is being piloted in the county to see whether there is a need for this kind of open-all-hours approach.
“The live chat started in April with Essex the first county to go 24/7. We are running the pilot for at least six months to see what difference it makes.
“Accessibility has changed in the last year. People want to use Facebook and other online channels and we now use Skype for all of our phone calls. Website referrals, for example, are up 20 per cent this quarter compared to last year. We are now available 24/7, except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday; we are making ourselves more accessible.”
The service is boosted with a £1.65m contract from the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) for Essex over three years.
Mr Padgett said: “The funding puts in place a service that any victim of crime can access. We are a bit of a safety net for people. We enable victims to get the help they need, when they need it.”
Victim Support teams can arrange a meeting to talk and receive emotional support in confidence, help to fill out a compensation form or get advice on how to make the home more secure. If the team cannot help directly, they will refer callers to any one of 40 specialist partner organisations who can assist.
Mr Padgett said: “The whole idea of what we do is to empower people when they feel they have lost control. Being a victim of crime can be the worst thing that has ever happened to someone, regardless of what the crime is. Our service is designed to give people everything they need to regain that control.
“People are blown away when we call and they realise someone cares. For some, having someone to talk to who is independent of the crime is all they need. That, in itself, can be empowering.
“We can do something really quick and simple and it can have the same effect as something we do that takes a long time. Some people may never get over a crime, but when they say they do not need us any more, they can at least cope with it and live with it.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Victims are at the heart of what we do and we are committed to ensuring all victims are able to receive the support they are entitled to. Victim Support provide a great service that is really focussed on meeting the needs of victims. “This new service means victims of crime can get the help they need whenever they need it, whatever time of day or night.”
If you require support to cope and recover from the impact of a crime please contact Victim Support on 0808 17 81 694 or chat online 24/7 with one of the trained supporters https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/support-near-you/live-chat
If your enquiry relates to operational policing or a crime please contact Essex Police here