Kent Commissioner challenges 'cruel' cuts to vital support for families of murder victims
PUBLISHED: 09:32 11 April 2014 | UPDATED: 09:37 11 April 2014
Pressure from Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes has caused the government to reconsider the decision to cut support to families of murder victims. She spoke to Molly Kersey about just how important it is that grieving families receieve the help they need.
It is hard for most people to even imagine how devastating it would be to have a loved one murdered.
This is why news of a new policy to end specialist help for families of people murdered before 2010 was met with strong opposition.
Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), is fighting so that people who have experienced such horrific losses will continue to get the support that they need and is delighted the government is reconsidering the change, which was due to come into force in October.
“I think these bereaved families should be fully supported for as long as it takes them to get closure,” she said.
“I don’t think we should be abandoning these families in their hour of need.
“Forces are solving murders from years ago – there would be no national help to those families.
I don’t understand it. What it says to me is that families bereaved before 2010 don’t count.
“It is an announcement made without a scintilla of common sense, humanity or consideration to the families.”
Referencing the case of Keith Bennett, a Moors Murders victim whose body was never found, Mrs Barnes said if the policy had been in place at the time, his mother Winnie would have been left with no support at all.
“It must be a really heart-breaking loss. We all lose people we love but not like that,” said Mrs Barnes.
The changes would lead to cuts in funding for charities such as Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse and Justice After Acquittal.
The support that is provided for victims’ families includes preparing for an inquest or trial and counselling. The money currently comes from a national pot which can be distributed depending on need.
“Victims of crime in Kent will always be the top priority for me and support needs to be there for as long as possible,” said Mrs Barnes.
“I hope now the government makes the right decision, it’s the only fair thing to do.”
Minister for policing, criminal justice and victims, Damian Green, has responded to these concerns, and said he is looking for the best way to secure help for those who need it.
Mr Green said: “I am urgently looking at how we best ensure support for those bereaved pre-2010 continues.
“I will make sure no one is disadvantaged by the move to the new funding model for victims’ services.
“Losing a loved one to murder is devastating and it’s vital that there is specialist help and support available, no matter when the crime was committed.
“We currently provide £2.4million each year for a dedicated, national homicide service, as well as funding a number of charities providing specialist support.”