E-petition 593769, Provide more funding for stalking advocates for victims of stalking, calls for the following:

The Government should provide more funding for stalking advocates for victims of stalking. This would help support victims, and should also help the police to investigate cases more thoroughly, potentially helping prevent threats to life.

Funding increased provision of stalking advocates should prevent further harm from stalkers to their victims, including death. This should help prevent unnecessary distress and suffering to victims and their families.

 The petition was set up following the death of Gracie Spinks, who is thought to have been killed by a former colleague who had stalked her.

The petition has received over 105,000 signatures and is due to close on 3 February 2022.

What are stalking advocates?

Stalking advocates – also known as Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers, or ISACs – are specialist practitioners who work with stalking victims to provide them with practical support, guidance and advocacy. Advocates are often based within stalking or domestic abuse charities and provide services to victims either directly or by referrals from other agencies. 
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which operates the National Stalking Helpline and provides a stalking advocacy service in London, gives the following overview of what advocacy looks like in practice:
  • ensuring the police investigate cases of stalking, collect evidence, and apply appropriate protection orders

  • risk assessing your situation and putting plans in place to keep you safe

  • representing your voice with the police, social services, housing or your employer

  • accompanying you to court

  • linking you in with other forms of support as needed

In September 2020 the University of Central Lancashire published ‘They speak for you when you can’t speak‘, an academic review of the National Stalking Advocacy Service run by the charity Paladin. The review found that service users described “lengthy periods of stalking and repeated calls to the police” prior to accessing support from Paladin, and that “ISAC support was critical in improving the responses from criminal justice agencies”. However, the review cautioned that many victims faced a “difficult and isolating” path to accessing support and that Paladin’s service capacity was limited by funding constraints. 

The Government’s response

The Government responded to the e-petition on 27 August 2021. It set out a range of recent funding announcements:

In 2021-22, the Ministry of Justice will provide just under £151 million for victim and witness support services. This includes an extra £51 million to increase support for rape and domestic abuse victims; the latter can include stalking that takes place in a domestic abuse context (i.e. where the stalker is a former partner or a family member of the victim).
The Home Office provided £97,000 of funding to Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service to enable them to engage additional Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers between April 2020 and March 2021 and thereby help to address the risks to victims during the coronavirus pandemic.
To help ensure victims and survivors are supported, the Home Office also part-funds the National Stalking Helpline, run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and has recently tripled its funding, such that it will now provide up to £155,000 this year. The additional funding will, amongst other things, enable the Trust to expand its advocacy service outside London.
The Government response also listed a number of other developments aimed at tackling stalking and wider issues of violence against women and girls. These include:
More generally, in December 2021 the Government launched a consultation on how victims can be better supported “through and beyond the criminal justice process across England and Wales”. Chapter 4 of the consultation paper, Delivering justice for victims: A consultation on improving victims’ experiences of the justice system, is seeking views on the role of victims’ advocates and on how further government action “could help overcome challenges that advocates face in delivering support”. The consultation is open for responses until 3 February 2022.

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