Federal Victims Strategy Evaluation, Final Report

5. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This chapter summarizes the major findings, conclusions and recommendations arising from the evaluation.

5.1 Relevance

There is a strong continuing need for the Federal Victims Strategy, and it is highly relevant to the Government of Canada's priorities and roles and responsibilities.

The Federal Victims Strategy is highly relevant to its stakeholders and to the agenda of the Government of Canada. There was consensus among all key stakeholders who participated in the evaluation that there is a strong and continuing need for the Strategy in order to give victims a voice in the criminal justice system and in the development of new legislation, to raise awareness about victim issues, to improve access to services, and to support the provinces and territories in providing services for victims of crime.

The relevance of the Strategy and its alignment with the Government of Canada's priorities has been demonstrated through recent Throne Speeches (2010 and 2007), other public statements and funding announcements by Ministers, Federal Budgets (2010 and 2006) and the recent establishment of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

Key informants indicated that the federal government is uniquely positioned to raise awareness about victim issues, provide needed financial support to the provinces and territories, and develop information and educational materials on a national scale. The federal government's continuing support of these activities gives further credibility and motivation to provincial, territorial and local efforts related to victim issues. In addition, the federal government is directly responsible for some categories of victims such as Canadians victimized abroad and victims of federally sentenced offenders.

5.2 Performance

5.2.1 Effectiveness

Although the Federal Victims Strategy is improving the experience of victims in the criminal justice system, funding lapses are impeding the full potential of the Victims Fund.

The Strategy has contributed to improving the experience of victims in the criminal justice system, most notably in areas where victims are directly benefiting from interventions such as the provision of financial assistance through the Victims Fund and funding for testimonial aids.

Surveys of victims and their support persons indicated that the financial assistance has helped alleviate the financial burden associated with attending PBC hearings, which has consequently increased their access to and participation in the criminal justice system. Similarly, funding for testimonial aids has increased victims' access to a greater number of higher quality testimonial aids, which have helped reduce the stress of testifying, have reduced the stress and anxiety of parents and supporters during the course of the proceedings, and have given child witnesses and their supporters choices and a sense of empowerment in the criminal justice process.

Despite its relative effectiveness in improving the experience of victims of crime, there have been some notable lapses in funding under the Provincial/Territorial Component of the Victims Fund, partly due to the fact that the Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund, sentencing hearing and underserved victims of crime funds are relatively new initiatives that were implemented in 2007 and need some time to be established. However, since these funding lapses have been significant, they are impeding the full potential of the Fund. The Strategy would likely be more effective and have a greater impact on improving the experience of victims in the criminal justice system if all funds were being disbursed, presumably reaching more victims who need information, support and services as well as through the further creation and enhancement of those services.

Administrative issues are affecting the uptake and performance of the Fund. The evaluation findings highlight the need for longer-term, sustainable funding. Provincial/territorial representatives expressed concern regarding the lack of long-term funding, which makes it difficult for them to commit to establishing a new program or fund. Some programs (e.g., Victim Impact Statement Travel Fund, Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund) require time for adequate capacity to be built prior to implementation. It also takes time for such initiatives to be known and used, particularly by victims. The federal funding allows these initiatives to be introduced but may end once expectations are raised and some impacts start to appear.

The evaluation findings also suggest that a lack of flexibility in the budget for some Victims Fund projects is a challenge for recipient organizations. This applies both to budgets of individual projects (i.e. flexibility to move funding between line items if one turns out to cost more, e.g., translation) and flexibility to move funding between programs such as the Victim Impact Statement Travel Fund and the Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund. It was also mentioned that the funding guidelines are too specific and may not reflect the demand or needs that exist in a region. For instance, there are additional costs associated with projects in the North, particularly related to travel and translation.

Evaluation findings point to a requirement to reduce the administrative burden on recipient organizations and make it more reflective of funding amounts. Provincial, territorial and NGO funding recipients indicated that when the process (i.e., application, reporting and evaluating) is long and time consuming, the funding is less attractive, particularly for small projects.

Recommendation 1

The PCVI should explore opportunities in terms of allowing for more flexibility in project spending when appropriate, or multi-purpose funding (e.g. one fund which could be used for either emergency assistance or VIS travel) - particularly for smaller jurisdictions, when renewing the Terms and Conditions of the Victims Fund. Exploring possibilities for enabling funding to be better tailored to the needs of different jurisdictions is also recommended.

Management Response

Agreed. The PCVI is exploring ways to build more flexibility into the Victims Fund which will allow recipient organizations the ability to meet demands and challenges in a more responsive manner that is reflective of their particular region.

Recommendation 2

The PCVI should investigate different risk-based models with respect to the administrative requirements, particularly for small projects, with a view of streamlining application and reporting requirements while still ensuring accountability.

Management Response

Agreed. In the spirit of Government of Canada Grants and Contributions reform, PCVI is exploring risk-based approaches to the delivery of funds that will be based on dollar amount sought, level of knowledge of the applicant and other appropriate factors such as the type and scope of project.

There are opportunities to further expand the impact of the Strategy to more victims of crime.

A comparison of program statistics with estimates of the number of eligible victims suggests that there is an underutilization of certain initiatives under the Financial Assistance Component of the Victims Fund (e.g. Canadians victimized abroad, Emergency financial assistance). Some key informants identified a lack of awareness among eligible crime victims regarding the available funding as a barrier to the take-up of these funds, indicating that there are still some opportunities for improvement in raising awareness among the public, criminal justice professionals and service providers who are in direct contact with victims of crime about available funds. This is supported by a benchmarking survey undertaken by the Department in September 2010, which found that a strong majority of Canadians are not aware of victim services (no knowledge at all 42%, a little knowledge 36%).

Recommendation 3

The PCVI should review and make any necessary adjustments to the current outreach/communications strategy for informing key stakeholders (including victims) about the financial assistance and funding available through the Victims Fund, with a view to increasing take-up and making it a more effective mechanism in improving the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system.

Management Response

Agreed. PCVI will review its communications strategy and develop ways to reach more potential recipients.

The Victims Matter awareness campaign has also seen an increase in the number of visits to the corresponding web page and victim services directory.

5.2.2 Economy

The PCVI's lean administrative structure contributes to the economy of the Federal Victims Strategy.

The PCVI's annual operating costs represented only 8% of the total cost of the program in 2009-10. Although its total budget more than doubled in 2007, enabling the implementation of five new initiatives under the Victims Fund (i.e. Canadians Victimized Abroad, Underserved Victims of Crime, Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund, Financial Assistance to Attend a Sentencing Hearing and Travel Assistance for Support Persons), the PCVI's staff complement increased by only two FTEs. Meanwhile, the workload within the PCVI has increased substantially as requests for funding have generally risen steadily each year under all three components of the Victims Fund. This has caused an imbalance between the increased expectations for the Strategy and the PCVI's delivery capacity.

5.2.3 Efficiency

The relatively lean administrative structure of the PCVI is contributing to some inefficiencies.

The data from the file review, case studies and feedback surveys indicate that the PCVI's outputs (e.g. types of projects funded, NVCAW symposiums, Northern Conference) are consistent with the objectives of the Strategy and are appropriate in that they are contributing to the achievement of intended outcomes. However, some PCVI staff noted backlogs and the slow flow of funding as areas for improvement, which was echoed by a relatively small number of victims of crime who reported some dissatisfaction with the time it took to receive financial assistance to attend a PBC hearing. Although the lean administrative structure of the PCVI has contributed to the economical delivery of the Strategy, it is affecting the timeliness of the distribution of funding. The shortage of personnel is also likely limiting the quantity of outputs produced (e.g. number of projects funded), resulting in funding lapses. Presumably, with more human resources, the Program would be better positioned to expand outreach activities to inform Canadians about the funding that is available and provide even more support and assistance to NGOs and provincial/territorial partners in developing strong and viable proposals.

Recommendation 4

The PCVI should review its internal structure, including the addition of human resources, to ensure that there is sufficient internal capacity to deliver the Victims Fund.

Management Response

Agreed. PCVI will staff available positions.

In addition, PCVI will work with Programs Branch to adapt its internal Victims Fund application review process to work within staff levels.


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