Changes to our work have resulted in a busy and challenging year.
Covid-19 continued to impact on where we worked from (remotely) but this did not impact our service delivery or the amount of work we dealt with. In this financial year, there has been a steady increase of requests for assistance to the office. There has been a 54% increase in the top five enquiries.
This is core service delivery for Victims of Crime South Australia (VOCSA) and does not include other projects, parole assistance, commenting on legislation, training commitments, court and victim impact statement support, updating and developing publications and website material or other work.
VOCSA have also seen an increase in the complexity of issues, many relating to historical cases. Details are provided further in this annual report.
Having previously bedded down policies, procedures and systems within the office meant that working remotely was manageable. From July 2020, we took over the responsibility for coordinating court support and victim impact statements. There was an increase of funding provided for us to undertake this work. Streamlined data collection processes confirmed the significant increase in workload within the office, and staffing resources will continue to be reviewed to ensure service delivery of a high standard is provided to victims.
In October 2020, we launched our new website - www.voc.sa.gov.au. In line with our coordination role for victims of crime, the website has been simplified and upgraded to provide clear and accessible information on what services are available and where to go for assistance. We have also been reviewing our publications to simplify the content and in doing so have consulted with people
with lived experience. This year we added to our publications with specific information for people affected by road trauma. All our publications are available to view and download from our website, but we also supply hardcopies to agencies and victims.
When we launched our website, I also changed the name of our service to Victims of Crime South Australia (VOCSA). I am still the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights, but VOCSA more accurately reflects our role and function and enables those in need to find us more easily. It reflects that at our heart are victims, and not just the Commissioner.
The court support program has been developed by VOCSA in conjunction with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) Witness Assistance Service (WAS) and Victim Support Service (VSS) volunteers. VOCSA has professionalised and streamlined the program and developed, implemented and trained volunteers who are required to pass a competency-based assessment.Requests for court support can be completed online and are automatically delivered for assessment
Victim Impact statements (VIS) are coordinated by VOCSA. The VIS form and process has been simplified to be more ‘user friendly’, with positive feedback from South Australia Police (SAPOL). Requests for assistance are managed with other agencies, as well as VOCSA.
The Commissioner held discussions with SAPOL regarding streamlining information sharing so that requests from victims for support and information could be managed in a timelier manner while also delivering efficiencies for SAPOL and VOCSA. The trial currently being undertaken is also examining SAPOL training in victim rights. The Commissioner developed and hosted a professional development seminar for SAPOL victim contact officers, and others involved in supporting victims.
Further work was undertaken on scoping and documenting requirements for a case management system, and this will go to tender and be implemented in the 2021 - 2022 financial year. The Commissioner negotiated appropriate funding arrangements for the Road Trauma Support Team so that counselling is available for those affected by road trauma. In addition, VOCSA is collaborating widely with others, such as the Carly Ryan Foundation, in innovative ways.
Once again, I would like to thank all those who support victims of crime, and particularly the VOCSA team who work tirelessly for victims in South Australia.
Commissioner for Victims' Rights