VSE building capacities and sharing knowledge to strengthen victim support services across Europe

16 Feb, 2018

Victim Support Europe as the leading European network of organisations is offering support to victims of crime across the EU. VSE’s members are supporting over 2 million victims across Europe every year.

Whilst since the implementation deadline of the EU Victims’ Rights Directive many Member States have stepped up to improve victim support services across Europe, others are lagging behind. The diversity of national victim support system is represented in our rich and diverse membership. Victim Support Europe works with its members to strengthen victim support services across Europe and support civil society and governments to set up national victim support services where there are none.

Victim Support Europe’s approach to capacity building is a comprehensive one where training, capacity building, knowledge sharing platforms and standards are combined to amplify organisations’ strengths and support further developments. Capacity building efforts of the past years were elaborated and diversified in 2017. Centres of Excellence were set up to allow VSE members to share expertise, good practices and strategies on issues they prioritised. The first ever Winter Training was held responding to the need of VSE members to increase their knowledge and skills on supporting victims of terrorism. Capacity Building activities were continued in countries were generic national victim support services do not exist yet such as Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria. These visits and continuous contacts aimed to support victim support organisations as well as government actors to build victim support services in their countries. Other VSE Members had the chance to visit France Victimes – our French member – to learn about their work and country context.

Centres of Excellence

Since 2017 Victim Support Europe has brought its members together on issues they prioritised to offer a platform where knowledge, best practices and expertise can be shared, strategies can be set out and policy guidelines can be developed. This year Victim Support Europe has set up three centres of Excellence namely a centre on a) European Helplines on Victims of Crime, b) Distant support, 3) monitoring of EU legislation on Victims of crime.

On 19th and 20th of October APAV hosted a Victim Support Europe meeting on European Helplines. During the meeting Victim Support Europe Members running a free helpline for victims of crime discussed their work with the 116006 European Helpline. Weisser Ring (Germany), Weisser Ring (Austria), Croatian Victim and Witness Support Service (Croatia), Crime Victims Helpline (Ireland), Bílý Kruh Bezpečí (Czech Republic), Offerrådgivningen i Danmark (Denmark), Rikosuhripäivystys (RIKU, Finland) and the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV, Portugal) were all present. During the workshop both technical, organisational and policy issues around the 116006 helplines were discussed and experiences shared. The meeting proved to be very interesting and useful for most participants. It moreover allowed for an in-depth discussion of commonalities and differences in the ways 116006 helplines are run. The participants discussed the way forward and common recommendations and goals.

To encourage and broaden interchange between the organizations members of Victim Support Europe regarding to online advice, VSE  and WEISSER RING Germany organised a Supporting At A Distance workshop in Mainz/Germany in September. Facing an ever-increasing demand on the internet for psychological support advisory organizations are continually broadening their services to cater to the needs of victims seeking help.  The workshop has been organized to exchange views, knowledge and networks about the implementation and use of ‘supporting at a distance’. In six workgroups the participants discussed e.g. about the technical implementation of online advice, quality assurance as well as selection and training of advisors. Furthermore, blended counselling and the continually growing importance of social media with the new possibilities related were subjects matter.

Winter School on Supporting Victims of Terrorism

From Monday 20 to Wednesday 22 November VSE held its first ever Winter School on Supporting Victims of Terrorism with participants from our member and partner organisations France VictimesV-EuropeAPAVSlachtofferhulp NederlandOfferrådgivningen i DanmarkSteunpunt Algemeen WelzijnswerkWeisser RingVictim Support RussiaNATAL. The subject of the Winter School was determined after an elaborate analysis of the needs of VSE’s members. An increasing level of terrorist attacks in Europe affecting an international group of victims have made that many of VSE’s members have been supporting victims of terrorism in the past years. The particular needs of victims of terrorism and the complementary support and response is something many of our members are dealing with. Especially the introduction of the EU Directive on Combating terrorism has incited Member States to ensure victims of terrorism are able to get the support they need. The foundations of the Winter School were set in the recent study carried out by Victim Support Europe with EIPA for the European Parliament. Lectures were provided by experts like Jelena Watkins (UK), Yotam and Tamar [PLEASE INCLUDE LAST NAMES] of NATAL (Israel), Karina Huberman of V-Europe as well as VSE’s Levent Altan, Ilse van de Walle and An Verelst Levent Latan and guest experts and speakers.

During these three days participants of the Winter school had the opportunity to learn more about Traumatic reactions in Victims of Terrorism, identification, psycho-education and support of victims & Support techniques and principles of supporting victims of terrorism. In-depth discussion were held on cross-border referrals and collaboration in a dedicated session.

VSE’s report How can the EU and the member states better help victims of terrorism was presented as an introduction to the working sessions. And the focus laid on exchange of knowledge, best practices, challenges and expertise on supporting victims terrorism across the European Union and world. The input of V-Europe, Jelena Watkins and victim support organisations from across Europe provided interesting grounds for a discussion on the importance of the peer support for victims of terrorism. The Winter school also looked at Vicarious Trauma and building resilience in victim support workers & Planning, preparation and

Capacity Building

Victim Support Europe has continued its collaboration and partnerships with victim support organisations and government institutions in countries were national generic victim support services do not exist yet.

[put info on visit to Lithuania & Romania – 2 sentences]

President João Lázaro visited VSE’s members and partners in Italy to learn about their work and to strengthen the ongoing important developments of setting up a network of victim support services across the countries. Victim Support Europe was also honoured to receive a delegation of the Bulgarian and Romanian judiciary to share knowledge and expertise on victim support services and victims’ rights.

VSE’s President João Lázaro also strengthened ongoing work with Greek partners in supporting initiatives to provide support to victims of crime. Whilst little evolution on the provision of national victim support to all victims of crime in Greece seems to be observed, VSE’s partnerships in Greece give hope for a slow but steady improvement In the attention paid to victims of crime.

Study visit and workshop in France

The end of October Victim Support Europe and a delegation of nine members [please cite names] were honoured to be welcomed to the France Victimes offices in Paris. Two days were dedicated to learning about victim support in France, the work of France Victimes and the collaboration between governments and civil society in supporting victims of crime. All participants were impressed with the work of France Victimes embedded in a longlasting history of strong initiative, quality services and collaboration. VSE and its members were welcome to the local office of [I will look up name but it is the Paris office] in the Paris courthouse to see how victim support is offered in the field. The French government was kind to open their doors to a visit of the VSE delegation to share their experiences and strategies in ensuring victims of crime in France receive the support they need. Throughout the study visit ample attention was given to the specific topics and needs expressed by visiting VSE Members. The hospitality and expertise of France Victimes made this visit inspirational for all attendees. A workshop on the second day allowed for a consolidation of the study visit and immediate translation to the context and reality of the different partners.

Standards

Since a few years Victim Support Europe and its’ members have been working towards a set of Quality standards that allow for a strengthened service offered to victims of crime. An extensive and participatory process led to the adoption of the first draft of standards for victim support organisations at the VSE General Meeting in November 2017. A lengthy guidance document and procedural guideline accompanied the 9 standards.

A first technical visit was done to France Victimes to inform the process and content of victim support standards. A second technical visit was set in Croatia were an in-depth pilot evaluation process was undertaken with Bijeli Krug. As VSE’s full member in Croatia Bijeli Krug underwent a first evaluation of the nine victim support standards. The following months Bijeli Krug will put in place the necessary changes and implement improvements to abide by all standards. The Victim Support Europe standards for victim support services are an important step in furthering quality in victim support services in Europe. Therefore accreditation processes are strongly linked to a complementary effort of capacity building, collaboration with other VSE members and training to ensure compliance to standards is directly linked to a rise in quality of the services.

Victim Support Europe’s diverse ways to strengthen victim support services across Europe aim to amplify the great work that is already in place in different Member States while strengthening the areas where there is still a need for improvement. In 2018 Victim Support Europe will continue its path to build capacity of victim support services all over Europe with an even more powerful belief that bringing together victim support organisations, government institutions and experts together it the way to go.