Article 13 – National Referral System for victim support services

Article 13 – National Referral System for victim support services

1) Member States shall establish a national referral system that co-ordinates referral of all victims to victim support services by the competent authority that received the complaint and by other appropriate services in order to ensure referrals are easy to operate and appropriate services are easy for victims and practitioners to identify.

2) The national referral system shall, as a minimum, ensure:

a) all victims are referred to the support service most suited to address their needs in a fast and effective manner in accordance with identified criteria, unless a victim declines such referral;
b) victims are contacted by a support service within an agreed and reasonable time following the referral of the victim to explain their services and offer support;
c) the referral mechanism is organised to minimise unnecessary or multiple referrals. Where appropriate Member States may organise referral from competent authorities to a single national support service best placed to co-ordinate victim referrals;
d) the processing of data for the purposes of referral and support is facilitated in particular through the development of data sharing rules and technical mechanisms.

COMMENTARY – Article 13

Whilst the European Commission proposal has recognised the importance of victims being contacted by support services, it has not established clear obligations with respect to referrals. Moreover, it appears that the proposal risks creating a system whereby victims will only be referred to support services once an assessment, carried out by an authority (most probably law enforcement), has deemed this to be necessary. In our experience, such systems result in lower rates of access to and take-up of support than a formal referral mechanism.

Experience and research show that the most effective approach to referral between police authorities and support services is a mandatory opt-out system. When a system is not obligatory, the referral rates are highly variable; officers do not always ask victims for consent or assume they do not need further support. In contrast, when victims’ details are sent to support services and staff contact victims directly with an offer, uptake is much higher.

However, knowing which organisations should be referred to or how a country-wide system should operate is problematic. For this reason, the proposal sets out core principles and an obligation for a system of referral, without setting out specific commitments. Such a system should, as a priority, ensure the correct management of referrals between generic and specialist support services, in accordance with the national situation.