Domestic abuse victims in Dorset will receive an enhanced service after an independent charity was awarded a major contract to support the county's victims of crime.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset has recommissioned Victim Support to run the service for another three years.
The £1.6m contract, which starts on October 1, means the charity will continue to provide practical and emotional support to people affected by crime or traumatic events.
Victim Support will also now provide an enhanced service for victims of domestic abuse, which will include support from a dedicated caseworker, over the phone or in person, for as long as they need.
Although the charity has provided support to domestic abuse victims in Dorset previously, they will now have a larger team dedicated to working specifically with people affected by this crime.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill became the first PCC in the country to award a local victims' contract when Victim Support was commissioned to provide the service in 2014.
The charity, re-commissioned following an open tender process, had over 13,000 victims and witnesses of crime referred to the service across Dorset last year. The support they provide is free, confidential, and tailored to meet the victim's needs, enabling them to re-build their lives and move beyond the crime.
Victims of crime have praised the support they have received from the charity:
"My caseworker was very helpful. She gave me her office phone number, and I felt more connected. I felt I could reach someone who understood my situation, meaning I didn't have to revisit it whilst explaining to someone else. She helped me rationalise my thoughts. My support worker was amazing. He called every time he said he would and really went the extra mile for me. He didn't rush any conversations and spent plenty of time with me."
"Victim Support have been great – I couldn't have got through it without them."
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: "I know that being a victim of crime is an incredibly traumatic experience, which is why I have made supporting victims one of my main priorities for Dorset. Victim Support has provided an excellent standard of support for people affected by crime since we became the first area of the country to commission a local service, and I am very excited by what can be achieved under the new contract. I was particularly keen to make sure those affected by domestic abuse are able to get the best support possible and Im proud to see a specialist team dedicated to helping those affected by this pernicious crime. Although this team will be working with those classed as the lower risk victims, these are often people in need of support in order to stop the abuse in its tracks and prevent it becoming more serious."
Mark Thompson, Contract Manager for Victim Support in Dorset, said: "We're delighted to have been awarded both contracts to provide support services to victims of crime in Dorset, including a specialist service those suffering domestic abuse. We'll be establishing new group support sessions for domestic abuse victims and setting up drop in services across the county to ensure support is accessible for all and were excited about the prospect of working hand in hand with victims over the next three years. This additional investment from the Police and Crime Commissioner is a reflection of the hard work of our team in providing the best possible support to victims and witnesses of crime. We look forward to working closely with their team to continue to provide a first class service to the residents of Dorset."
Support services aimed at higher risk victims of domestic abuse are provided by a specialist team within Dorset Police or by Dorset Council.
Anyone who has been affected by crime and wants support should contact the victim care team on 0300 3030 163. Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am-6.30pm but anyone who needs support outside of these hours can call the charity's Supportline for free on 0808 16 89 111 or request support online.