THE COUNTY’S rape crisis centre is “struggling to cope” following drastic funding cuts coupled with an increasing number of sexual offences in Northamptonshire.
Dawn Thomas, operations manager at Northamptonshire Rape and Incest Crisis Centre, said the centre has seen its funding from the county council and Government slashed by around 35 per cent this year. The county has also seen a 13 per cent rise in the number of sexual offences being recorded by police following a significant increase in the number of historic cases being reported.
Last year, the centre supported almost 500 victims, both men and women, aged between 14 and 66 years of age.
Mrs Thomas said the crisis centre had already slashed the number of staff it employed to just two full time posts and was now reliant upon volunteer counsellors to keep the service afloat.
She said without fresh investment, however, waiting times were going to increase and eventually the service to rape victims in the county would suffer.
She said: “We are fortunate in that we have volunteers. We have 16 volunteer counsellors but there is still a cost in terms of their training and supervision. What it also means is we have had to drastically reduce our outreach programme.
“We used to have outreach programmes in Corby, Daventry and Wellingborough but we no longer have those.”
Funding has been agreed for other agencies in the county, which offer statutory services, including the Sunflower Centre and Serenity. However, Mrs Thomas said the rape crisis centre was still receiving a significant number of referrals from those places.
She called for the county to adopt a “more joined up approach” to dealing with victims of sexual offences, like many other counties in the East Midlands.
She added: “A lot of our cases are historic so when you look at the 13 per cent increase across the county predominantly it is historic cases.
“So we deal with them, and that includes cases with substance misuse issue or health issue, because if the root cause of that issue is sexual offences, there is a high probability that the person will be referred to us.
“In terms of the demand on our service is it currently far exceeding the capacity. At some point we will have to say we no longer have the capacity to take any more clients.”
A spokesperson for Northamptonshire County Council said: “Previously the authority had a strategic grants programme, from which voluntary organisations could bid for money.
“The council has moved towards an approach of commissioning services on the basis of need and organisations can tender to deliver services using this funding.
“From the start of this financial year there has been more emphasis on putting contracts out to tender rather than awarding grants.”