When you get government funding, how much can you criticise?
Early in my career, I was a maths teacher, so I’m very comfortable around numbers. What I like is that, with maths, you’re always guaranteed there’s a right answer somewhere. But lately I’ve found that numbers – or overwhelming evidence, for that matter – don’t necessarily win the day when it comes to changing the government’s mind.
My charity, Victim Support, currently gets around 70 per cent of its funding from government. That’s a high percentage, but we use it well to provide practical and emotional support to hundreds and thousands of victims and witnesses of crime every year. Ninety-four per cent is also a high percentage – that’s the number of people whose needs we satisfy, often when they need help most. We’re a success story.
But when you get a lot of funding from government, how far can you push back if you don’t agree with government policy?
We’ve been wrestling with that issue over the past few months as we, and many other individuals and organisations representing victims of crime, have been trying to persuade the government not to break up victim and witness services and devolve responsibility to the new police and crime commissioners (PCCs). Disappointingly, earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice confirmed its plans to do just that in its response to its consultation ‘Getting it right for victims and witnesses’.
We don’t think these plans are in the best interests of victims and witnesses and will lead to patchy services. The announcement also suggested that current support for victims is ‘inflexible’ and a ‘one-size fits all model’. This is perplexing as we work hard in tailoring our support for victims and don’t work in isolation, but in partnership with many other organisations.
And then the maths goes awry:
- In recent weeks, the government has argued that Victim Support is a monopoly provider which needs to be dismantled. But the numbers say that we receive just 58 per cent of the money that government currently spends on victims, with the rest going to a wide range of other organisations. That’s a long way short of being a monopoly
- Add to that the fact that, in the response they published yesterday, the government made the decision to put victim services in the hands of PCCs, despite the fact that 136 out of 196 of the people and organisations who responded to the consultation opposed the idea – that’s 70 per cent against, which somehow is not enough to persuade ministers to change tack
- The government has also chosen to ignore the 47 Members of Parliament from across all parties who have signed an Early Day Motion and nearly 13,000 members of the public who’ve signed petitions asking them to rethink
- And lastly the objections of 29 victims charities of the Victims’ Services Alliance against PCC commissioning cut no ice either.
Of course I know very well that this is politics, so what have numbers got to do with it? But it is politics that affects people when they are most in need of our help and support. We are disappointed, but while governments come and go, we will continue to stand firm in our commitment to victims and witnesses – something we’ve done for nearly 40 years.
But most importantly we will continue working with the many shared voices across the charity sector with whom we’ve formed such a close alliance in the last year. Because that is the kind of commitment to helping victims and witnesses that really does add up.
I’ll cover ‘fractions’ in my next blog post.