Support for Victims of Crime in the ACT

Contributed by Victim Support ACT and current to March 2018.

Introduction

While Victim Support ACT provides services to all victims of crime in the ACT, there are a number of other services that also provide support to victims of crime in the ACT. Currently the key agencies are:

More information about agencies can be found on their websites.

For victims of property crime, Supportlink is funded by ACT Government to deliver the Home Safety Program to break and enter victims and other vulnerable to at risk residents. The Home Safety Program offers Canberrans advice on how they can improve the security of their homes. More information on Supportlink’s Home Safety Program can be found on their website.

ACT Policing has a dedicated Victims of Crime Team who offer support to victims by:
  • providing referrals to counselling and support services;
  • helping with victim impact statements; and,
  • giving information and support around the court process and updates on court matters.
The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions has a Witness Assistance Service who act as a bridge between prosecutors and vulnerable victims and witnesses and their family.

The Victims Services Scheme

Many of the services provided by Victim Support ACT are delivered as part of the Victims Services Scheme, in accordance with the Victims of Crime Regulation 2000.

Victim Support ACT provides the following services to victims of crime in the ACT:
  • Access to counselling and other therapies to recover from the harm;
  • Case management and assistance navigating the criminal justice system;
  • Court support delivered by a team of skilled volunteers (Court Companion Program);
  • Support to make an application under the ACT Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme;
  • Assistance preparing victim impact statements; and
  • Referrals to complementary support services.

Some notes on counselling and other therapies

All victims of crime occurring in the ACT are eligible for two ‘contact hours’ worth of counselling and other therapeutic supports. Additional contact hours for counselling or other therapies may be available to victims of violent crime (see Schedule 1, Division 1.2.1 Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act 2016 for a full list of eligible violent crimes). You do not need to have reported the crime to police to be eligible.

If a victim is interested in getting counselling or other therapeutic support, a Case Manager will be appointed to work with the victim to prepare a care plan outlining the goals of contact hours. The case manager will then refer the victim to an approved provider (i.e. counsellor or other professional) for appropriate support. The kinds of people who can provide support to victims include Social Workers, Counsellors, Psychologists, tutors and massage therapists.

Case Managers at Victim Support ACT also provide:
  • Information;
  • Individual advocacy (including in relation to the Governing Principles);
  • Referrals;
  • Psychological first aid;
  • Psycho-education; and,
  • Ongoing case management.
Case Managers have specific knowledge of the criminal justice system and provide ongoing support to victims in their journey through the justice system.

Case Managers can also work with the Victims of Crime Commissioner and the Public Advocate to advocate on behalf of victims; or the Human Rights Commission complaints team to progress an appropriate discrimination, health services or disability service complaint.

Financial Assistance Scheme (including lodging an application)

Victims of crime in the ACT may be eligible for some financial assistance. From 1 July 2017, all applications for victims of crime financial assistance are made to the Victims of Crime Commissioner under the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act 2016. The new scheme is administrative in nature and does not require the victim to attend court. The old financial assistance scheme operated in the ACT Magistrates Court under the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act 1983 (repealed). At the time of writing, a number of applications for financial assistance are still awaiting decisions in the Magistrates Court.

The purposes of the new Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme (the Scheme) are to:
  • Assist victims of crime to recover from acts of violence;
  • Contribute to the safety of victims of crime and the prevention of future acts of violence;
  • Acknowledge the harmful effects of acts of violence; and
  • Complement other services provided for victims of crime.
Under the Scheme, payments called ‘immediate needs payments’ are available to provide help with emergency costs, including measures for personal security and emergency medical and dental costs. Victims of crime may also seek payments for ‘economic loss’ to help reimburse them for costs such as counselling and psychological support; loss of actual earnings (i.e. work earnings); and non-emergency medical and dental expenses. The scheme can also provide financial assistance in relation to expenses for a funeral for someone who has died as a result of homicide.

In some circumstances a payment called a ‘recognition payment’ can be made to victims to acknowledge the trauma experienced as a result of an act of violence. The amount of a recognition payment depends upon the type and circumstances of the offence. The amount of payments are set by the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Regulation 2016.

Application forms and more information on the Scheme are available on Victim Support ACT website and can be submitted electronically, by mail or in person. Victim Support ACT can also assist victims to prepare their applications for the Scheme– individuals are encouraged to contact Victim Support ACT on 02 6205 2066 to talk about this.

Some victims chose to get a lawyer to help them prepare their applications for financial assistance. If you do decide to get a lawyer to help you prepare your application for financial assistance, the maximum amount your lawyer can charge is $1,123; or $2,246 for an appeal or external review.

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