Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens have been awarded £123,465 to deliver sexual assault support services across the region.
It will see the new service receive £41,000-a-year, for the next three years.
The money has come from the Home Office’s Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) Service Transformation Fund.
A PCC spokesperson said: “The funding will be used to provide specialist support services for victims of sexual assault with additional needs linked to learning difficulties or mental ill-health across Avon and Somerset, enhancing existing support service provisions.
“This will include Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) support as well as a befriending support provided by trained volunteers.
“It will also link up with existing services from across Avon and Somerset, including the Sexual Violence Consortium led by SARSAS to enhance support for victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”
PCC Sue Mountstevens said she was “delighted” to have been award the Home Office funding.
She added: “The money will make a real difference in providing specialist support, across Avon and Somerset, for sexual assault victims with learning disabilities or mental health problems.
“Protecting the most vulnerable from harm is a priority in my Police and Crime Plan and this funding will help to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable victims of sexual abuse.
“I am further delighted that other partners across Avon and Somerset have also been awarded funding to support multi-agency domestic abuse partnership projects.”
Chief executive Next Link Domestic Abuse Services, Carol Metters MBE, said the money would be used to expand their services.
She continued: “For nearly 10 years SAFE Link has successfully provided emotional and practical support to victims of rape and sexual assault.
“It is important for victims to know there is help available to them. Our extensive experience has shown that victims who receive support go on to have safe, fulfilling lives free from violence and abuse.”
Kyra Bond, director of Womankind, said: “The impact of rape and sexual abuse cannot be underestimated. We are very pleased that we have been awarded a grant to provide a befriending service for vulnerable women living in Bristol to help them rebuild their lives.”
Of the 41 successful projects awarded funding from the £17m pot, Bristol City Council was handed £391,000 to deliver an “Avon and Somerset-wide, multi-agency approach to domestic abuse” including through information sharing and expanding the focus of cases.
Bath and North East Somerset Council was also awarded £266,557 for a domestic abuse community prevention programme which includes a youth programme for those witnessing or at risk of domestic abuse and provision for an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor.
The Home Office’s VAWG Service Transformation Fund is designed to support a range of initiatives including support for victims, work with perpetrators of abuse to change their behaviour, and helping to support children affected by what they have witnessed.
You can see all of the successful bids across the country VAWG Service Transformation Fund website.