THE Connect Gwent hub, based in the former Blackwood Police Station social club building, brought a range of agencies and organisations together under one roof to improve the way victims of crime are dealt with.

The hub includes support workers from Age Cymru, a charity that helps elderly victims of various crimes; Victim Support, another charity that helps victims of crime; New Pathways, an organisation that helps adults and children that have been subjected to sexual abuse; Embrace, a national charity that supports child victims of crime up to the age of 18; and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

There is also Umbrella Gwent, a further charity that provides help and advice on sexual orientation and gender identity equality and inclusion, and a mental health nurse from Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

The hub is the only multi-agency service in Wales, and is one of only a few in the UK.

It has 27 members of staff and the same amount of volunteers.

Most work at the base, but many others also working remotely to be nearer to service users.

Opened in May 2015, Connect Gwent was established to better protect victims of crime in the region.

Figures released at the time said Gwent Police were perceived to carry out a ‘good/excellent’ job, but the force had previously been criticised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) for victim satisfaction and its handling of domestic abuse cases.

Johanna Robinson, Connect Gwent’s Victim’s Hub coordinator, said this week the hub works “hand in hand with police officers”, but also has a service “which extends beyond that”.

She believes the benefits of the base, over a general victim support line – where support workers could be based at the other side of the country – have been significant.

“It’s about having a local and regional service that fits the needs rather than having a blanket service, which would have been delivered by victim support across the whole of the country,” she said.

“There would have been localisation but not as in depth. What we have here is local people delivering local services, which I think is really important.

“You have local people who understand what is really going on.

“In terms of language, understanding what’s gone on recently, local news, all of that kind of stuff is relevant to people’s lives, particularly for victims.”

Many of the support workers at the hub visit residents in their homes – which Ms Robinson says provides one-to-one reassurance for victims which cannot be underestimated.

Someone who says he’s had a lot of support from Connect Gwent and support workers from Age Cymru is Darryl Harber.

Mr Harber, who lives in Cwmbran, was the victim of a substantial fraud.

The pensioner had just began to use internet banking when he was targeted in a company scam and transferred money online.

He lost most of his life savings, and said that until he found out about support on offer from Connect Gwent he was “extremely suicidal”.

He said the scam began when he was offered the chance to put his money into an account with better interest rates.

He said: “If the interest rates had been up at that particular time and had been OK I wouldn’t have bothered, but they were clever the way they did it.

“They knew people were vulnerable to interest rates as they are now – which are weak.”

Mr Harber said he only realised that the whole matter was a scam when his brother alerted him.

He added “It was highly professional and that money I transferred went to various accounts throughout the country.”

One of the reasons Mr Harber said he didn’t ‘twig’ it was a scam was the fact that he spoke to a person over the phone who seemed friendly, and they chatted about football.

But he said support from Connect Gwent and Age Cymru was helping him through.

“I don’t know where I’d be today without them if I’m perfectly honest, because I was suicidal at one stage,” he said.

“My heating packed in, but I had no money, so I had no hot water and my health deteriorated. I was in a dark place.”

Mr Harber’s advice to others was to always double check companies promising better than average benefits to ensure they are legitimate.

“I would recommend to anyone that if they deal with any financial things like investments or savings to check and double check the company they are dealing with are covered by the financial conducts authority, so that they can get some recompense if they get scammed,” he said.

Mr Harber’s support worker, Jayne Hunt, says charities at Connect Gwent are coming up with new ways to help victims of crime.

Among them, Age Cymru is offering a digital inclusion programme which offers one-to-one tuition to show people how to be safe online.

The latest HMIC report, which was published in March this year, said that police forces need to do their upmost to protect the vulnerable.

The report said: “Vulnerable people are often at the greatest risk of harm. It is not always easy for frontline officers to provide this protection and support, not least because cases involving vulnerable victims are often both complex and sensitive. Neither is it always easy to identify people who may be vulnerable, particularly for officers under pressure to attend other incidents or who are not in possession of all the facts. Nonetheless, HMIC has found many examples of officers and staff at all ranks and grades who have with consummate professionalism and great humanity and compassion protected and cared for vulnerable people, often in the most demanding and distressing of circumstances.”

The report also ran the rule over individual police forces across the country.

Statistics for Gwent Police showed the force rated ‘good’ to the question ‘How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?’

Speaking about how the service has improved across the last two years, Ms Robinson said referrals of those in need from police officers has become “more enhanced”, with a greater understanding of the vulnerability of victims than before.

“Before the hub started referrals were around 7,000, but this year we have hit 20,000,” she said. “That’s the difference.

“But we also now have – which I think is really important – a skill set which has seen a really big shift, even in the last six months, in building rapport from the off with people. That initial call goes so much further than it ever did.”

In terms of progress, Ms Robinson says the multi-agency needs to continue to work and communication with outside partners, such as housing agencies.

“We are working much better with other agencies than we have and we need to continue that and we will continue that,” she said.

“We are very grateful to victims who come forward and agree to do things because nothing tells people better than them.

“We will be looking to form a group of victims and survivors as sort of a consultation and expert group. We will rotate people in that group so it doesn’t become static or old. That will be an ongoing invitation for people who think that’s something they may want to do.”

For more information on Connect Gwent and the work it does, visit