Alberta victim services fund will now be used solely to support victims of crime

The Alberta government is reversing changes to the victim services fund that had drawn criticism from advocacy groups, victims and their families.

Two years ago, the province decided to divert roughly 40 per cent of contributions to the fund to pay for crime reduction programs like drug treatment courts and the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT). 

Under changes announced Tuesday by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, the fund will again be used entirely for helping victims recover from their physical and psychological injuries and supporting them through the court process. 

The province is also expanding supports and providing emergency assistance when required.

“We know the previous financial benefits program was not quick enough and simply did not provide enough immediate support to those who were coping with trauma,” Shandro told a news conference. “And that was not acceptable.”

The changes come after UCP MLAs Angela Pitt and Nate Neudorf made 19 recommendations following consultations with stakeholders.

Starting Sept. 1, victims will now have two years, instead of the previous limit of 45 days, to apply for assistance from the fund.

Funding for counselling, which was capped at $1,000 under the old program, will now have a maximum of $12,000.

Victims who suffer serious brain or neurological injuries will be eligible for up to $100,000 in lump-sum funding, and monthly payments of $1,000. Victims with other types of disabling injuries can apply for a $60,000 lump sum fund. 

The program will give victims of domestic violence access to emergency financial assistance for temporary housing and relocation. Victims of serious crimes can apply for up to $1,000 of immediate crisis counselling in addition to $11,000 of counselling to help them through the court process. 

The fund will also cover expenses for victims who need to travel to appear in court. Families of homicide victims can be reimbursed for funeral expenses up to $12,500.

The victim of crimes fund was worth $44 million as of March 31. Total funding for victim services is now $35 million after receiving a $14.5 million boost. 

The government is dissolving 71 victim services units across Alberta and creating four new regional boards representing the east, west, south and central areas of the province. 

Each board will have administrative support staff which will give case workers more time to support victims.

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