A new year-long pilot scheme will see St John Ambulance volunteers provide immediate support to older people who have been victims of crime.

(L-R) Adrian Donaldson, Chief Executive, St John Ambulance, Eddie Lynch Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Anthony Harbinson, Director, Safer Communities at the Department of Justice, Norman Walker, Lead Volunteer, St John Ambulance, PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls, Ray Taylor, St John Ambulance.

The Support Responder scheme launches on the 3 December in the Ards and North Down Borough Council area and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council area. The service provides immediate practical and emotional support to older people if they become victims of a crime and is designed to reduce its impact. St John Ambulance volunteers, working in pairs, will attend within 90 minutes of being mobilised by police. There is no charge for their services.

The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI) and the Department of Justice have provided funding towards the training of PSNI officers and St John Ambulance volunteers. COPNI will evaluate the scheme following the one year period.

The Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch said, “Older people who are victims of crime tell me they need emotional support immediately after the trauma of a crime having taken place. We are delighted to be working with our partners in the PSNI, St John Ambulance and the Department of Justice who have recognised the value of such a scheme for older people personally affected by crime. This service will offer a real comfort to older people in the immediate aftermath of experiencing a crime.”

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between all of the partners on the project.

Anthony Harbinson, Director, Safer Communities at the Department of Justice said; “Crimes upon older people can have a significant and detrimental impact on their lives. The Department of Justice is therefore pleased to support the Support Responder Service which will assist in reducing the immediate impact of crimes, and I congratulate the volunteers who will be providing this service.”

After a crime has taken place, PSNI officers will contact, with the older person’s consent, St John Ambulance volunteers who will arrive to support the victim. This could involve making a cup of tea for the older person and reassuring them until relatives or friends arrive, helping them to tidy up or spending time with them to give them emotional support.

Norman Walker Lead Volunteer from St John Ambulance said, “The St John Ambulance in Northern Ireland is very happy to be involved in this Support Responder Pilot and to work in collaboration with the PSNI, the Commission for Older People and the Department of Justice.”

The PSNI will work closely with St John Ambulance to support the scheme in both council areas. PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said, “Protecting and safeguarding older people in our community is a priority for us.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent and reduce the number of crimes committed against older persons and to support victims through effective investigation and by bringing offenders to justice.

“We are delighted to be part of this pilot scheme and will continue to work closely with all our partner agencies in supporting vulnerable victims.”