Ministry of Justice
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Better support for bereaved families and eyewitnesses of homicide and major incidents

Homicide Service expanded to support more people impacted by homicide and tragedies such as Grenfell Tower fire.

  • access to support for children and young people impacted by homicide
  • extra investment to see thousands more people eligible for vital support

Bereaved families and eyewitnesses of homicide or major criminal incidents like the Manchester Arena bombing will receive better support than ever thanks to important changes coming into force on Thursday (1 June 2023).

The Homicide Service, backed by £5.27 million of government funding, provides essential services and practical support to families bereaved by murder or manslaughter – such as emotional and practical support like transportation as well as trauma and bereavement counselling and help navigating the criminal justice system.

Currently, the service – delivered on behalf of government by charity Victim Support – provides services for people who have been bereaved through murder or manslaughter.

But thanks to new measures coming into effect this week – and following a successful pilot in London which expanded the programme to eyewitnesses of homicide these life-changing services will be expanded to provide support to all those who directly witness a homicide or major criminal incident across England and Wales – approximately 1,200 more people.

Figures show that 8 out of 10 bereaved family members who have accessed support through the Homicide Service have reported a better outlook on life with 6 out of 10 saying it improved their health and sleep.

Yesterday’s news builds on the government’s wider commitments to place victims at the heart of the justice system through the Victims and Prisoners Bill ensuring those impacted are always supported and have somewhere to turn.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, yesterday said:

The Homicide Service provides vital support to the families of victims under the worst of circumstances – ensuring they have the emotional and practical help they need to cope with their loss. 

By expanding the service to include eyewitnesses and bereaved families of major incidents across England and Wales thousands more people will be able to access the support they need as early as possible.

For the first time ever the Homicide Service will provide support to children and young people in the community after a major incident or local murder that impacts them directly such as a teacher, pupil or religious leader. 

This will ensure the most vulnerable in society can receive professional help as quickly as possible to cope with traumatic events that could adversely impact their mental health.

Ellen Milazzo, Head of the National Homicide Service at Victim Support, yesterday said:

We are honoured to continue to deliver the National Homicide Service, which provides such vital support to those whose loved ones are killed through murder or manslaughter. We set up the service in 2010 and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. Expanding it to include support for direct eyewitnesses to homicide or a major criminal incident where a person is killed, alongside enhanced support for children and young people, is a brilliant step. These changes will enable us to deliver the best possible service for victims and ensure everyone impacted by homicide gets the help they need.

Justice Minister, Edward Argar, yesterday said:

This expansion of the Homicide Service, and additional new funding, will help ensure that more people bereaved through homicides and major criminal incidents across England and Wales, and eyewitnesses to those events, know they have somewhere to turn for help, where they can get the support they need.

The enhanced service will work alongside other government measures to help the victims and bereaved of major incidents. In March the government committed to creating an Independent Public Advocate (IPA) as part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill. This will work on behalf of families and provide dedicated support in the aftermath of major incidents like Hillsborough to guide them from as close to the incident as possible to the conclusion of any inquiry and ensure they get access to all available support services.

Notes to Editors

  • A Major Incident is defined in the Homicide Service Contract as an incident where a crime causes fatalities which local services are unable to manage and/or where a response is required under one or more of the emergency services’ major incident plans
  • An eyewitness is defined in the Homicide Service Contract as an individual who has directly witnessed a Homicide or Major Incident and suffered mental or emotional harm as a result
  • Access to the Homicide service is made through a referral by a police liaison officer or, when the death occurs abroad, through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). People can also self-refer to the service by calling the National Homicide Service on 0300 303 1984 or by completing an online form. The Service is delivered free of charge to Service Users and support can be accessed at any time no matter when the homicide occurred and is available for as long as required. In addition, Service Users can re-join the service at any time
  • The new Homicide Service Contract commenced on 1 April 2023, with the enhancements to the service commencing from 1 June 2023. Find out more about the Homicide Service
  • The Victims and Prisoners Bill was introduced into Parliament on 29 March 2023. Victims placed at heart of justice system under radical shakeup - GOV.UK
  • The Victims and Prisoners Bill builds on the wider government work to improve support for victims and ensure offenders pay back to society. Last year the Victim Surcharge, a financial penalty given to offenders on conviction which goes directly towards support of crucial victim services such as rape support centres, was increased by 20% – providing an additional £20 million a year by 2025


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