News posted 20 March, 2024

New move for The Saint Mary’s Centre, which continues to set standards for all Sexual Assault Referral Centre’s to follow

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Victims of sexual assault can continue to receive first class treatment and care at The Saint Mary’s Centre in Manchester, after a move to new state-of-the-art premises.

The iconic centre was the first sexual assault referral centre (SARC) to open in the UK in 1986, at the old Saint Mary’s Hospital, on Oxford Road. It set the standard for all similar centres to follow and has strived to provide the best care possible to victims of sexual violence ever since.

The centre is now celebrating a new milestone in being relocated to Peter Mount Building on Manchester University NHS Trust’s Oxford Road Campus, with brand new suites and technology.

It is the only one in the country to offer a combination of support, counselling and forensic medical examination to victims of sexual violence, of any age or gender.

Dozens of distinguished guests, including representatives from the police, Crown Prosecution Service and social care were given a tour of the updated suites and services on March 20, 2024, after a plaque was unveiled.

Mrs Diane Hawkins JP LLB, The Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, gave a speech as she officially opened the new unit and said:  

“These new premises offer the best environment possible for clients. The team have obviously considered all elements of care when planning the centre, thinking about the clients they see at every step of the way.

“Sadly, the need for this service is ever increasing with the team here providing more than 1000 forensic medical examinations last year.

“Along with increasing referrals to the counselling service and requests for support from the Independent Sexual Advisor Team, it shows how vital this service is and how important the skilled and compassionate people who work here are.”

The Saint Mary’s Team were joined by the team at SAFE Place Merseyside in 2017 and, together, they make a formidable team in dealing with sexual violence across Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside.

The Police, The Crown Prosecution Service, Social Care Providers, Commissioners, Third Sector organisations and many others also play a vital role in the vital work carried out to help and support clients.

Kathy Cowell OBE DL, Chairman of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, welcomed guests to the official opening and said:

“We’re very proud to have this service within our trust and proud of the passionate, and knowledgeable colleagues who are revered for their skills and experience throughout the UK and beyond.

“This new centre will provide a haven to people in their darkest hour, and it is my great privilege to be with you today, at the beginning of this new chapter in The Saint Mary’s Centre legacy.”

Mark Cubbon, Group Chief Executive Officer of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, also gave a speech and  commented: 

“The new SARC has been described as “gold standard” and I am sure that it offers the very best facilities to the clients who use them.

“None of this could have been achieved without a team who are dedicated to their work and passionate about preserving the dignity of the people we support, at all times.

“I am very proud of this service and the people who make a huge difference to the lives of people facing a very challenging time in their lives. I wish them every success in their new home.”

There are many firsts that The Saint Mary’s Centre is responsible for implementing within the sexual violence community.

Staff recognised the need for clients to have support while travelling through the often-confusing Criminal Justice System and created the Independent Sexual Violence Advisor role which has now been rolled out across the nation for both adults and children.

They have created a counselling service for clients of all ages which allows people to access a suite of therapies to suit their needs, as well as a forensic service which continues to lead the way in ensuring physical samples are collected safely so that robust evidence can be used to help secure convictions.

The Saint Mary’s Centre also evolves to challenge behaviours, myths, stereotypes and adapts ways of working, to meet the everchanging needs of their clients –  as sexual assault continues to change in nature.

Supporting facts and information about The Saint Mary’s Centre:

The Saint Mary’s Centre team are seen as experts both nationally and internationally and have shared their knowledge and expertise far and wide.  They regularly offer support and guidance to the College of Policing as well as regular training packages to partner police forces. This is combined with a varied training programme offered to colleagues in social care, education and health, which ensures their knowledge is shared effectively.  The research and training programmes offered by the team ensure the centre continues to contribute to evidence based practice change, always with the client at the forefront of their minds.

Data for 2022/2023: Total new referrals for whole service:

Children 0-17 yrs old – 1660: – 1043 new and 616 referrals where another SARC service has been accessed beforehand.

Adults – 2831: – 1898 new and 963 referrals where another SARC service has been accessed beforehand.