Article 9 – Provision of services

Article 9 – Provision of services

1) Generic support services shall be organised to deliver services to all victims, including through referral where appropriate. Generic and specialist support services shall be organised to be able to also address the specific needs of individual victims taking into account the personal characteristics of the victim, the type or nature of the crime, the circumstances of the crime, the extent and nature of harm to the victim and any other circumstances which may require an adapted response. Generic and Specialist support services shall, as a minimum:

a) be accessible to victims on a non-discriminatory basis before, during and for as long as they need after criminal proceedings ensuring, in particular, sufficient proximity of services to victims, appropriate opening hours, and delivery of services through multiple channels including face to face, online, helplines and itinerant services; and be coordinated in particular through referrals in accordance with victims’ specific needs;
b) be free of charge;
c) be confidential;
d) act in the interests of the victims;
e) remain operational in times of crisis, such as health crises, significant migratory situations or other states of emergency;
f) operate in accordance with quality standards for support based on Article 1 and this article.

2) Generic and Specialist Victim support services, shall, as a minimum, provide:

a) information, advice and support relevant to the rights and protection of victims including on accessing national compensation schemes for criminal injuries, and on their role in criminal proceedings including preparation for attendance at the trial and court accompaniment throughout the criminal proceedings;
b) information about or direct referral to any relevant specialist or other support services in place;
c) emotional support and where available psychological support or referral to psychological support services once they become aware of a status of a person as a victim. If the special need for psychological support has been demonstrated by an individual assessment, Ppsychological support shall be available to victims in need of such support for as long as necessary as determined by the victim’s psychologist;
d)advice relating to financial and practical issues arising from the crime;
e)unless otherwise provided by other public or private services, advice relating to the risk and prevention of secondary and repeat victimisation, of intimidation and of retaliation;
f) an individual needs assessment during an intake process to identify victims’ support needs and to tailor support provision to meet these needs.

3) Unless otherwise provided by other public or private services, specialist support services referred to in Article XXX, Member States shall ensure that specialist support services, as defined under Article 8, shall, as a minimum, develop and provide:

a) shelters or any other appropriate interim accommodation for victims in need of a safe place due to an imminent risk of secondary and repeat victimisation, of intimidation and of retaliation;
b) targeted and integrated support, including trauma support and counselling for victims with specific needs, such as victims of sexual violence, victims of gender-based violence and victims of violence in close relationships, including trauma support and counselling including violence against women and domestic violence covered by Directive (EU) …/… of the European Parliament and of the Council[1] [on combating violence against women and domestic violence], victims of trafficking in human beings, victims of organised crimes, victims with disabilities, victims of exploitation, victims of hate crime, victims of terrorism, victims of core international crimes.

4) Member States shall encourage victim support services to pay particular attention to the specific needs of victims who have suffered considerable harm due to the severity of the crime.

[1]                  Directive (EU) …/… of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating violence against women and domestic violence (OJ …).’;

COMMENTARY – Article 9

The European Commission has proposed several amendments with respect to Support Services, including the requirement that victims are to be contacted by support services when predicated by an individual needs assessment, set out in Article 22 of the 2012 VRD. Furthermore, the amendments require services remain operational during crises, that psychological services are available to victims for as long as they are required (as determined by an individual needs assessment), that articles are aligned with the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on combatting violence against women and domestic violence, and that new specific rules on specialist services for child victims are established.

Whilst we are generally supportive of the proposals, the procedures around the individual needs assessment – specifically, who carries it out and for what purposes – require further examination; support needs assessments and access to support services should not be the purview of the police and other authorities. Not only would this be burdensome, these entities are usually not well placed to make such decisions, which can impact the number of victims supported. We support the objective that psychological support is available for as long as needed, but suggest this should be determined by a psychologist, rather than by the organisation carrying out the needs assessment; especially if the assessment is carried out by police officers. Furthermore, services which do not themselves employ psychologists should at least be able to refer victims to ones which do.

Whilst these amendments are a good first step, they fall short of addressing key failings and challenges in implementing support. It must be noted that across Europe the quality of services offered is not standardised and varies widely, while in some countries generic services do not even exist and in others, services are inaccessible for a range of reasons.

The following amendments are proposed:

  • First and foremost, all countries must offer coordinated generic and specialist victim support services: addressing the failure to implement services. It is notable that is often repeated that some groups of victims can only be served by certain types of organisations. This does not reflect evidence based or victim focused approaches and it is dangerous to create through laws, monopolies on the delivery of services. The determining factor for providing support should be quality, based on compliance with identified standards, rather than other factors based on e.g. ideology. This approach places victims interests first and foremost in the organisation of support rather than the interests of organisations themselves;
  • Clearer stipulations to ensure services are, in fact, accessible which include the provision of support via multiple channels: the current Directive requires services to be accessible but does not specify how. This has resulted in inconsistent approaches with no measurable standards against which to hold states;
  • Introduction of recognised operating standards for services: this addresses inconsistent quality in services whilst leaving the precise standards for Member States to determine. VSE has adopted the following standards which it recommends for all support services:
    • Services are available to all types of victims of crime
    • Respect, and treat victims with courtesy and dignity
    • Work to ensure victims’ safety
    • Respond to victims’ individual needs
    • Diversify service provision
    • Provide services using referrals and cooperation
    • Ensure good governance structures
    • Provide and/or encourage training
    • Have monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in place.
  • In line with the EU Victims’ Strategy, recognition as essential social services must be given to support services, and therefore they should continue to operate in crises: the Covid pandemic demonstrated that in times of crisis, there is a higher risk of crime, particularly against the vulnerable and that it is essential to maintain support services. Recognition as an essential service can facilitate data sharing protocols with authorities.
  • Support services should be well funded: NGOs are often best placed to deliver victim services yet lack sufficient State funding. This obligation not only ensures the implementation of support services, it also aims to prevent States from unnecessarily taking over the delivery of services from existing civil society support organisations.