What does a victim care officer do?
Victim care officers (VCO) help people come to terms with the aftermath of crime and support those who may be involved in court proceedings.
Each victim is unique and the challenge of this role would be to create a tailored solution that meets the different needs and feelings of the people using the service. Some VCO posts target specific groups, for example victims of serious sexual assault, domestic abuse or anti-social behaviour.
Some clients will not have spoken of their feelings before and a range of emotions can come to the surface, such as distress, confusion, guilt, or anger (which may initially be directed at at the VCO).
This role may involve visiting clients at home or supporting them over the telephone. The role would typically involve:
- listening carefully and with sensitivity to what the client has to say
- reassuring them that the events were not their fault and their reactions are normal
- assessing their needs, both practical and emotional and then arranging or directly giving that support
- providing an objective viewpoint, possibly including information on legal processes
- making sure that victims have access to other relevant services and agencies
- ensuring appropriate confidentiality
The practical support provided could include obtaining a personal attack alarm for someone who feels unsafe, or arranging for a Police Community Support Officer to visit.
In some jobs, VCOs would also be involved in training and supervising volunteers.
What do I need to do to become a victim care officer?
The most common way into this type of work is to start as a volunteer with a victim or witness care organisation, such as Victim Support. As a volunteer, you would receive extensive training, which would help you develop the communication and listening skills you need, as well as the knowledge and understanding necessary to support victims.
To volunteer, you normally need to be over 18 and of good character, with a caring nature and non-judgmental attitude. The ability to communicate in a second community-based language could be useful in some situations.
To find volunteering opportunities, you could visit the Do-it and Victim Support websites for details.
You may need between one and two years' experience as a volunteer before being considered for paid work as a VCO.
Another way into this career is through experience gained from related areas, such as working with vulnerable adults in a social services or community setting, counselling or the justice system, for instance working in the police, courts or prisons.
You would undergo background checks by the Disclosure & Barring Service for paid or voluntary work.
Where to find out more
Where could I be working?
Some of your time will be spent travelling between offices or clients.