The murder of a loved one, and the anguish and trauma that follow, is something that the vast majority of us will never have to experience. And so perhaps we don't think of the long term emotional impacts of a homicide and the practical issues families have to cope with. As a result, the support needs of these families are often complex and wide-ranging.
This issue has been receiving Government recognition. Last summer, Louise Casey, the Victims’ Commissioner at that time, published a review into the treatment of families bereaved by homicide which stated they often don't receive the support, care or consideration they deserve. In 2010, the Ministry of Justice gave Victim Support an extra £2 million to develop and run the Homicide Service. We've lots of experience of carrying out research with vulnerable groups, and were asked by the Ministry of Justice to carry out qualitative research into the early workings of the service and its value to bereaved people. Speaking directly to service users, we found that their experiences of the Homicide Service were overwhelmingly positive.
Professional Homicide Service case workers work with bereaved families holistically, giving them emotional as well as practical support. Case workers are also able to commission other specialist services for families, such as trauma counselling, specialist counselling for children, support where the death has occurred abroad and legal advice.
Bereaved families described how this approach improved their psychological wellbeing and facilitated a more positive outlook, as well as alleviating the stress and anxiety brought on by having to cope with practical issues such as criminal proceedings, funeral arrangements and dealing with the media.
In his foreword to Casey’s review into the needs of families bereaved by homicide, Kenneth Clarke said that ‘Government can never make things right for families bereaved through crime and it would be foolish to pretend that any level of support can achieve this. But we can do more to ensure that families get the help they need and that the practical impacts of bereavement are minimised’. Arguably, the Homicide Service makes steps towards achieving this.