By KLTV Newsdesk
A new state-of-the-art fully integrated service for victims of sexual violence and abuse has opened its doors in West Yorkshire.
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 Covid-19 pandemic, which has slowed the progress on-site but has been successfully completed to ensure that the facility is now fully accessible for service users.
The Centre is located in Sunningdale House in Leeds, and services the entire West Yorkshire Area, including Kirklees.
The new facility, which has been commissioned by PCC and NHS England and NHS Improvement, 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.
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.”
Mr. Burns-Williamson added that the aim of the new center will be ensuring that they transform and improve the experience of vulnerable victims and witnesses by having all their specialist services under one roof.
He said: “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.
“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.”
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.
“We care deeply about those who have been subject to such offenses and by bringing all this expertise and technology under one roof, we can offer 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.