The fully bilingual Victim Help Centre which was established by the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick CB QC is expected to go live on 1st July 2015 with the aim to improve the way victims of crime are looked after in the region.
The centre will create a one stop shop for victims by bringing together the support services of North Wales Police, the Witness Care Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the former Victim Support organisation. Each victim will be given a response specifically tailored to their situation.
The integrated services will cover the whole of North Wales from its base at the police headquarters in St Asaph. Mr Roddick, along with his deputy Julian Sandham visited the centre and described it as “a triumph for North Wales.”
In charge of the dozen staff and thirty outreach volunteers who will be operating the service is Julie Elliott who joined the original Child Line team in 1987 as a counsellor. This was soon after it was set up by TV presenter Esther Ranzen to provide a free confidential phone service, where young people could talk over issues such child abuse and bullying.
In 1994, Julie joined the staff of Child Line Cymru when its North Wales base was in Rhyl and helped establish its bilingual service. Eight years later Julie was appointed as director for the entire Wales organisation and took control of 25 staff members based at both the Rhyl and Swansea headquarters, along with around 300 volunteers throughout the country.
Julie recalled the early days with Child Line and said: “I was privileged to work alongside Esther Ranzen for 25 years as part of the team. She is a very committed and professional person who is also very child centered. It was a masterstroke to set up the Child Line service. All the experts told her it couldn’t be done but she proved them wrong.”
Julie believes that the new North Wales Victim Help Centre has much in common with Child Line. She explained, “They are both about helping and empowering the people who use the service and making a difference to their lives.
“Since the Police and Crime Commissioner announced his plan to open the centre earlier this year we have been busy getting everything ready for going live on 1st July – the date we go live to the public for the first time.
“We have 12 staff in the centre that have all been trained to the very highest standard to deal with any situation they might have to deal with from the victims who get in touch with us. Outside the centre, we have a network of about 30 volunteers in communities across North Wales, which works as an outreach team.
“Where a person has been the victim of domestic violence, for instance, they can help with things such as moving them out of the home where the abuse has taken place. They can also give assistance with contacting employers and schools, writing letters, making insurance claims and claims for criminal injuries compensation.
“The six victim care officers based in the centre come from a range of previous jobs such as the education field and other care organisations and a number are criminology graduates. They have been training hard for the past six weeks and they just can’t wait to begin the service.”