THE long-awaited introduction of a key support centre for rape victims in West Yorkshire will not happen until April after being hit by further delays.
It was revealed in March that a dedicated Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) had still not opened in the county four years after a landmark report identified the facility as a vital tool in tackling the crime.
An ‘interim’ medical examination centre run by West Yorkshire Police and outsourcing firm Serco since 2012 lacks support services offered by the ‘one-stop shop’ SARC sites based in virtually every other police force area in the country.
Bosses have tried to bring in a permanent arrangement with services all under one roof, but the force says “the procurement process has not progressed as quickly as anticipated”.
A new provider is promised when the NHS takes over as lead commissioner on April 1, but in the meantime Serco will be paid £77,000 to extend its contract for a further two months.
The current contract provided by Serco, funded 50/50 by West Yorkshire Police and NHS England, had been due to end on January 31 on the basis that a permanent service would be introduced on February 1.
A tender process last year to create a dedicated SARC service was abandoned in favour of a single provider for all four Yorkshire police forces.
West Yorkshire’s police commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “There is a professional support network in place to support victims of rape and other serious sexual offences across [West Yorkshire] and detailed work is being done to identify and ensure a consistency of service provision going forward...The services that a SARC facility would contain under one roof are currently in different places, yet working closely together to ensure victims get the best possible care.”