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Ranee Chambers speaks to the BBC
Residents wanted to deal with the issue of victims of violence
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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 15:26 GMT
Victim support service launched
Hands of a victim
Victims of violence offered confidential advice
A new 350,000 initiative aims to address the social needs of victims of violent crime in Northern Ireland.

The Castlereagh Hospital Support Project in east Belfast was launched at Stormont on Monday.

The partnership is trying to highlight a group of individuals in our community who have been neglected for some time

Ranee Chambers
Funded by the European Peace and Reconciliation fund, it offers free and confidential support to victims, helping them overcome the problems which follow violent crime.

The project reaches out to victims of violence, whether paramilitary, criminal or domestic, through a project worker based at the accident and emergency unit at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.

A 24 hour telephone counselling service, staffed by trained counsellors, is an important aspect of the Castlereagh Hospital Support Project.

The scheme also focuses on young men between the ages of 13 and 25, who would be considered 'at risk' and vulnerable to low-level criminal activity, vandalism and drug abuse.

Speaking at the launch of the programme at Stormont, former Victims Commissioner Sir Kenneth Bloomfield said he warmly welcomed the project.

"For more than two years now my main concern has been for the victims of our troubled decades.

"In my report as Victims Commissioner, 'We Will Remember Them', in the latter review of criminal injuries compensation and in the painful on-going work of the commission seeking to restore to their loved ones the bodies of 'the Disappeared', I have tried to reflect their urgent plea for help."

Vulnerable groups targeted

The scheme is directed not just at the victims of the Troubles, but at those affected by crime and domestic violence.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Project co-ordinator Ranee Chambers said many groups in society have been neglected.

Ranee Chambers: Project co-ordinator
"The partnership is trying to highlight a group of individuals in our community who, the partnership feels, have been neglected for some time and in launching the Victims of Violence programme, we're hoping to highlight this group and the issues of victims as one of importance."

Chairman of Castlereagh Partnership for Peace and Reconciliation, Tommy Jeffers said: "We acknowledge the existence of a very large group of people who have been victims of crime and other violence and who suffer the consequences of violence without any structured assistance whatsoever.

"Those individuals who do not report crime, for example, racial attacks, attacks on gays, lesbians, intimidation, crimes against children etc. are often the most vulnerable in society and are consequently most in need of support."

The launch of the programme at Stormont was attended by several major figures, including the Minister for Victims Adam Ingram MP, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party the Rev Ian Paisley.

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29 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Victims highlight concerns at conference
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