A charity that has provided support to more than 10,000 victims of crime has had to send out begging letters because of a shortfall in financial support from the Department of Justice.
The charity, Support After Crime Services (SACS), which was formed 10 years, receives just €115,000 a year to help victims throughout most of the Munster region.
It points out that an appeal by just one person against a criminal conviction can cost the taxpayer nearly as much as it gets in financial aid.
The imbalance has been highlighted by SACS founder and current director Sally Hanlon, whose support operation has become so popular, her team now helps up to 1,400 crime victims per year in every county in Munster, bar Kerry.
Ms Hanlon says that while Department of Justice funding is welcome, it just isn’t enough and by October of most years, she is struggling to keep the service open.
She works full-time for SACS, has a colleague who is nearly full-time and team of 40 volunteers.
The charity has to pay for rent of its office in Cork, its heating, lighting etc and the cost of travelling to meet crime victims out of the meager budget.
She said her office is swamped by people who want help in compiling victim impact statements for serious offences heard in the Circuit Criminal Court.
However, newly enacted legislation will now allow such statements to be heard at district court level, even if the perpetrator pleadsguilty. As a result, her organisation’s workload is likely to increase significantly, especially as all garda stations now have a dedicated officer who is obliged to tell crime victims of the support services available to them.
“We are doing a lot more victim impact statements than we ever did and we are only too glad to help people with them. It usually takes two to three visits to get them compiled as in most cases victims don’t know where to start or what to say. We don’t coach them, we just help them put it into their own words,” Ms Hanlon said.
She said she “hated to go out begging for money” but had to do so to keep the organisation running and had sent letters to companies and credit unions looking for support. “I’m very passionate about what I do and want to ensure this service continues. We want to be in a position to give 100% service to the victims of crime. In fairness the Department of Justice gives us funding, but the Government needs to commit more.”
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