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A report by independent charity, Victim Support, is being launched on World Mental Health Day to shine a light on the barriers to support affecting victims of crime with mental health problems.

Using data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, the report found that Kent residents with mental health problems were more likely to be targeted for certain crimes than the general Kent population. In particular, people with mental health problems in the county were six times more likely to be victims of violence with injury (6% vs 1%), nearly three times more likely to be burgled (20% vs 7%), and 15% more likely to be victims of antisocial behaviour (43% vs 28%).

The report recognises positive steps to address challenges facing vulnerable victims of crime, but says more work must be done to help those affected to access the services they are entitled to.

Recommendations include the introduction of joined-up support between agencies, earlier identification of victims with mental health problems, and improving waiting times and access to mental health services for both victims and witnesses.

Kultar Nayyer, Services Director at Victim Support, said: 'Victims of crime often suffer from lower levels of wellbeing and, for victims who have mental health problems to begin with, these symptoms can become even more severe in the weeks or months after a crime takes place.

'Identification and early support can significantly improve the experiences of victims with mental health problems navigating the Criminal Justice System. This group needs consistent and tailored measures, including support with emotional and practical tasks, and fair compassionate treatment by agencies, charities and the Criminal Justice System.'

Victim Support identified five areas where improvement is needed:

  • Breaking down barriers to reporting crime;
  • Better recognising people’s mental health problems;
  • Providing better support for witnesses giving evidence;
  • Improving access to mental health treatment; and
  • Providing better support for victims of anti-social behaviour.

The charity makes three key recommendations to address these findings:

  • A more joined-up approach, ensuring better links among each of the
    criminal justice agencies in Kent, and more communication with people with mental health problems;
  • Increased identification of peoples’ mental health problems, ensuring all services are recognising and recording when a victim has a mental health problem; and
  • Enhanced support services, making more help available to support victims and witnesses in Kent through the criminal justice process, and improving local NHS services.

Entitled Doing Better for Victims and Witnesses with Mental Health Problems in Kent, the report was commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, Matthew Scott.

Mr Scott said: ‘I commissioned Victim Support to undertake research locally to understand how people with mental health problems were being supported through the criminal justice system.

‘I am pleased that the report found a wealth of good practice going on in our county, but there is evidently room for improvement. For example, Victim Support found the availability of video links at courts for vulnerable witnesses to be patchy. The criminal justice system needs to identify and accommodate every individual’s own needs.’

Mr Scott, who serves as the national mental health lead among PCCs, has named mental health a key priority. He is using a report launch event to raise awareness of the changes needed to ensure that those suffering mental ill health receive the right care from the right person at the right time.

He added: 'I urge everyone working across the criminal justice system in Kent and Medway to reflect on this report and act. I will be holding agencies to account to see that they do through my role as chair of the Kent Criminal Justice Board.'