Solidarity today submitted its comments on the Victim Support Services Bill. According to Solidarity the bill, in its current format, creates more obstacles than it solves problems.
Marisa Engelbrecht, sector head of Solidarity’s guild for social workers, explains: “The bill aims to regulate any facility that offers any form of support services to victims of violent crime. As a whole the bill is extremely vague and general on the one hand, yet on the other it is unreasonably strict insofar as the enforcement of certain financial and administrative requirements is concerned. Social workers and other persons providing support services such as counsellors, pastors and doctors must all comply with certain statutory requirements as it is. This bill would only put more pressure on these professionals”.
According to Solidarity, the bill threatens the sustainability of several existing support centres and in many instances it also threatens the safety of victims.
“As it is there is already a shortage of centres that offer much-needed support to victims of violence. If the bill becomes enacted in its current format it would become even more difficult to provide such services.
The rigid registration requirements place an unfair burden on existing as well as potential centres. Often these centres try to support people on a non-profit basis. This, as well as the unreasonably harsh sanctions such as fines and imprisonment that may be imposed for non-compliance, will drive many people out of the professions, while it will discourage others from entering them,” Engelbrecht contended.
Probably the most worrying aspect of the bill is that it does not put clear measures in place for the identification of offenders at police stations. This could lead to victims being further exposed because they may have to be in the same room as the alleged offenders,” Engelbrecht pointed out.
To read Solidarity’s full comments on the bill, click here