LONG-TERM independent counselling for rape and sexual abuse victims could come to an end in just two months.
A short-term grant was given by the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner to offer the service across the region. But this money is set to stop in March with currently no provider coming forward to carry on the service.
PCC Bill Longmore said the grant was ‘always intended to be a one-off payment’ designed to give the independent West Mercia Rape and Sexual Assault Centre some ‘breathing space’ and if they wanted to submit another similar funding application then they would consider it with an open mind.
He added: “However, we do have to bear in mind that the primary responsibility for funding this kind of specialist counselling service lies with the health service. We have been working with NHS England and other partners to try and come to a solution, and that work will continue.”
Sarah Forrest, head of health and justice commissioning for the West Midlands at NHS England, said they were responsible for commissioning short-term support for victims at Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
“In West Mercia, people accessing the SARC can be seen by either the in-house SARC counselling service, or be referred on to two local counselling organisations. NHS England has recently met with local partners to discuss the counselling services that are available at the SARC and have increased capacity to meet demand.
“SARCs are just one of the services that are available for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
“People have a choice about the support that they need and may access services through a number of different ways. However, services that fall outside of the SARC are not commissioned by NHS England.”
Worcestershire County Councillors have pledged to try and help find the funds for a specialist counselling service for young people aged 11 to 21, estimated at costing £25,000 a year.
Coun Fran Oborski said: “We feel in a financially tight period, the one group we as a county council have the greatest duty to protect are the really vulnerable children who are the victims of sexual abuse.”
Coun Liz Tucker added she would be happy to put some of her divisional grant funding to sort the problem temporarily while the long-term finances were sorted out.