Better support for bereaved families and eyewitnesses of homicide and major incidents

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Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC. Photo credit: Twitter

Bereaved families and eyewitnesses of homicide or major criminal incidents like the Manchester Arena bombing will receive better support than ever thanks to important changes coming into force on Thursday (1 June 2023).

The Homicide Service, backed by £5.27 million of government funding, provides essential services and practical support to families bereaved by murder or manslaughter – such as emotional and practical support like transportation as well as trauma and bereavement counselling and help navigating the criminal justice system.

Currently, the service – delivered on behalf of government by charity Victim Support – provides services for people who have been bereaved through murder or manslaughter.

But thanks to new measures coming into effect this week – and following a successful pilot in London which expanded the programme to eyewitnesses of homicide these life-changing services will be expanded to provide support to all those who directly witness a homicide or major criminal incident across England and Wales – approximately 1,200 more people.

Figures show that 8 out of 10 bereaved family members who have accessed support through the Homicide Service have reported a better outlook on life with 6 out of 10 saying it improved their health and sleep.

Today’s news builds on the government’s wider commitments to place victims at the heart of the justice system through the Victims and Prisoners Bill ensuring those impacted are always supported and have somewhere to turn.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:

“The Homicide Service provides vital support to the families of victims under the worst of circumstances – ensuring they have the emotional and practical help they need to cope with their loss. 

“By expanding the service to include eyewitnesses and bereaved families of major incidents across England and Wales thousands more people will be able to access the support they need as early as possible.”

For the first time ever the Homicide Service will provide support to children and young people in the community after a major incident or local murder that impacts them directly such as a teacher, pupil or religious leader. 

This will ensure the most vulnerable in society can receive professional help as quickly as possible to cope with traumatic events that could adversely impact their mental health.

Ellen Milazzo, Head of the National Homicide Service at Victim Support, said:

“We are honoured to continue to deliver the National Homicide Service, which provides such vital support to those whose loved ones are killed through murder or manslaughter.

“We set up the service in 2010 and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. Expanding it to include support for direct eyewitnesses to homicide or a major criminal incident where a person is killed, alongside enhanced support for children and young people, is a brilliant step. These changes will enable us to deliver the best possible service for victims and ensure everyone impacted by homicide gets the help they need.”

Justice Minister, Edward Argar, said:

“This expansion of the Homicide Service, and additional new funding, will help ensure that more people bereaved through homicides and major criminal incidents across England and Wales, and eyewitnesses to those events, know they have somewhere to turn for help, where they can get the support they need.”

The enhanced service will work alongside other government measures to help the victims and bereaved of major incidents. In March the government committed to creating an Independent Public Advocate (IPA) as part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill. This will work on behalf of families and provide dedicated support in the aftermath of major incidents like Hillsborough to guide them from as close to the incident as possible to the conclusion of any inquiry and ensure they get access to all available support services.

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