£383,000 of prisoners' pay used to fund victim support


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The Independent Online

More than a third of a million pounds has been deducted from prisoners' pay packets to fund services for victims in the first six months of a new Government scheme, it was announced today.

Under the Prisoners' Earnings Act, which came into effect in September last year in England and Wales, the charity Victim Support receives up to 40% of the wages of low-risk prisoners who work outside jail to prepare for their release.

The cash - £383,000 over the first six months of the scheme - pays for support to help victims recover from crime, such as home security or professional counselling.

Among those benefiting so far were an 80-year-old man robbed of his wallet and keys, who was given new locks for his home, a personal alarm and food vouchers, and a woman helped to buy a new bed for her daughter, who was too traumatised to sleep in her old one following a sexual assault.

Up to 500 offenders at a time are allowed to work outside prison to help prepare for their release, after passing a risk assessment.

Justice minister Crispin Blunt said: "For too long offenders have not done enough to shoulder the financial burden of their crimes, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill for the damage they have caused.

"The Prisoners' Earnings Act is the start of Government getting the balance right - forcing prisoners to take responsibility for their crimes and helping victims to recover through the funding of these vital support services."

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said: "Victim Support is using cash from the Prisoners' Earnings Act to provide practical help for the victims of crime in most need.

"Vulnerable and traumatised victims are benefiting from a range of support including emergency accommodation when they can't go back to a burgled home, new locks for security and peace of mind, and counselling when it is required.

"It is only right that prisoners who have caused such damage take responsibility by supporting the welfare of victims. The Act is an excellent way of achieving this."

It is hoped that the scheme will raise £1 million a year for Victim Support.