New State-Of-The-Art Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) In West Yorkshire Has Opened

A new state-of-the-art fully integrated service for victims of sexual violence and abuse has opened its doors in West Yorkshire today.

Work on the new purpose built Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) facility for West Yorkshire started in late 2018 and will now house a number of specialist services.

The project timeframe has been impacted by the ongoing Covid19 pandemic, which has slowed the progress on site, but has been successfully completed this week to ensure that the facility is now fully accessible for service users.

The SARC now houses both Children and Adult Services under the same roof in the heart of West Yorkshire.

The new facility, which has been commissioned by PCC and NHS England and NHS Improvement has opened its doors today (26th June), also incorporates court live-link facilities, interviewing suites for video recorded interviews (VVS/VRI), waiting rooms, a hub for specialist support services, and referral to Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA).

The aim of the facility is about ensuring victims and survivors have access to specialist medical and forensic services and advice. SARCs provide access to a range of medical, practical and emotional support by specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers. The staff will help the victims and survivors make informed decisions about what they want to do next, whether this is reporting the incident to the police or receiving care and support.

Partners including the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for West Yorkshire, West Yorkshire Police, NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Courts Service HMCTS and victims support services, have all been involved in its development.

West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Mark Burns-Williamson OBE, said:  “I am absolutely delighted to announce that West Yorkshire’s new SARC is now fully up and running and we are totally committed to providing the best possible service to vulnerable victims and witnesses in this truly state-of-the-art facility. 

“This has been a personal ambition of mine since first being elected as PCC in 2012 and very much a shared vision between the Office of PCC (OPCC), West Yorkshire Police, NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Courts Service, with an aim of ensuring that we transform and improve the experience of vulnerable victims and witnesses by having all dedicated and accessible specialist services under one roof.

“With it being Safeguarding Week here in West Yorkshire, we are working alongside our partner agencies and all five local authority areas to help raise awareness about such issues that affect our communities. Earlier this year, I launched my Victim’s Strategy that put victims and witnesses at the heart of all that we do and the completion of this new SARC I believe is a huge step change in building on the good progress we have already made.

“A key role for me as the PCC is to champion the interests of victims and survivors, I am proud of the services we have helped develop and put in place in recent years which substantially improve on what was available in previous years.

“We wanted to involve victims and survivors, children, adults, and young people in the development and improvement of services, and have larger dedicated premises with an increased number of specialist facilities which I now believe we have managed to do, making what will be one of the best services of its kind in the country. I want to recognise and say a huge thanks to all our partners and everyone involved in working so hard to now get us to this point which is real milestone for this service provision in West Yorkshire.”

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, said: “The opening of the SARC represents a major milestone in our commitment to both victims and witnesses, as well as our collective ability to safeguard those who are most vulnerable within our communities.

“It is extremely pleasing to see the doors open on this new facility after all the hard work which has gone into its development and it will mean a great deal to all those who need to access it.

“In particular, the introduction of innovative solutions such as the court live link and victim suites take us yet another step towards our ambitions of making the experience of giving evidence and achieving justice as simple and comfortable as possible.

“We care deeply about those who have been subject to such offences and by bringing all this expertise and technology under one roof, we can offer a one of the most advanced services in the country.”

Julie Dhuny, Head of Health and Justice for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the North region, said:

“SARC services play an essential role in supporting victims to meet their health and wellbeing needs whilst having the potential to bring wider benefits to the community by raising awareness of sexual violence and increasing the visibility of services, reducing stigma and giving victims a voice.

“NHS England and NHS Improvement recognises the strength that comes from working collaboratively with partners and service users and we are proud of our joint achievements in developing this new SARC environment for West Yorkshire.”

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