Tuesday, 15 March 2011

SAFE centre funding secured despite cuts gloom for Lancashire police

Despite news of cuts to Lancashire's police announced yesterday, there is some good news among the doom and gloom as public services come under increasing assault from the ConDem government.

Lancashire Constabulary has confirmed that funding for the SAFE Centre, Lancashire’s specialist centre for victims of rape and serious sexual assault has been secured.

The SAFE Centre offers support services for men, women and children who are victims of sexual assault. Based at Royal Preston Hospital, which provides the building and utilities, and up until now funded by Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire’s five primary care trusts have now offered to help fund the £1.2million needed to run the centre.

The SAFE Centre has a dual purpose – to collect forensic evidence for a future prosecution and to provide counselling, help and support to victims both after the report of an attack and throughout any consequent court case.

“We are pleased that an agreement has been reached regarding the future funding of the Centre," says Dr Alyson Jones, clinical director at the SAFE Centre. "The service we provide to victims of rape and serious sexual assault is often vital to any possible prosecution and central to the victim’s rehabilitation.”

“The SAFE Centre is a really important service and we are happy to help fund it," a spokesperson for Lancashire’s five primary care trusts said. "The police approached us a few months ago to ask for funding for the healthcare provided at the centre to ensure the service stays open.

“Each primary care trust will pay a percentage of the costs based on where people using the centre are from.

“This funding will be via block payments, not payment by results as has previously been suggested.”

The new funding arrangement means that the police will continue to pay for forensic examination and investigative costs while the primary care trusts will pick up the bill for healthcare.

Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley, head of public protection for Lancashire Constabulary, said: “Coming forward as a victim of rape or sexual assault can be incredibly daunting so the SAFE Centre offers the help and support they need both mentally and physically.

“The aim of all those involved is to provide a first class service that focuses on the victim’s needs and I am pleased that funding is now in place to secure the centre’s future.”

Lancashire Constabulary will have 102 fewer police officers dealing with urgent calls from the public at the end of its cutbacks and the force will axe £6m from its “response policing” budget, losing 102 out of 1,096 PC jobs and 18 supervisors in the process.

The Lancashire Evening Post reprted that they are among 550 police officer posts which will go as Lancashire Police fights to reduce its budget by almost £42m over the next four years due to government cuts.

Describing it as the “biggest change” the police force had seen, Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said: “We’re now at the stage where we can’t leave the front line untouched.”

The chairman of the Police Federation in Lancashire is critical of the cuts, saying they will lead to an increase in crime.

""You cannot take police officers off the street and expect criminals not to return to them," the BBC reported. "People will see less police officers on the street and less availability of police officers."

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