Scottish Women’s Aid calls for sustainable funding as 84% of services struggle to meet demand
Domestic abuse charity Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) marked International Women’s Day yesterday calling for national and local authorities, and community planning partnerships, to offer secure, long-term funding for specialist domestic abuse services.
Research from SWA shows that, in 2018-19, the average funding cut for local Women’s Aid groups was 10%. In the same period, the majority of groups experienced increased demand, with 84% operating waiting lists for at least one service – some services with waiting lists of up to six months.
These services include information and advice, training, referrals for services in housing and social security, group and one-to-one support for survivors of domestic abuse, as well as safe refuge accommodation. All of these services are facing difficulties with funding cuts, however, one of the most concerning impacts is the threat to refuge provision.
SWA has been calling for policy and practice reforms that enable women and children to stay in their own homes when seeking safety from an abuser.
The Scottish Government’s commitment to bring forth emergency barring legislation will be an important step in this direction, but the current state of play is that refuge is most often the only appropriate and safe emergency accommodation available in our communities. Yet, in 2018-19, over half of Women’s Aid groups in Scotland reported having to operate a refuge waiting list. This means that women and children forced to leave their homes because of domestic abuse are being left without a safe place to go.
On one day alone in 2019, women’s aid services were unable to accommodate 58% of women and 38% of children who requested refuge. This picture has to change.
Ash Kuloo, member services manager at SWA, said: “It is women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse who bear the brunt of cuts to funding. It is their safety and survival that lies behind these statistics and every increased waiting list means another person not getting the vital support they need, at the time they need it.
“Despite a backdrop of Scotland’s national commitment to ending violence against women and girls, as well as our world-leading new domestic abuse law, our services are continuously being asked to do much more, with much less.
“Women’s Aid groups are specialist services with decades of experience in responding to the complexities of coercive control. They are staffed by expert women who put themselves on the frontline every day to support those experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse.
“Scotland has national and international obligations to uphold the rights of women, children and young people. Today, on International Women’s Day, we call on all authorities to do their part to ensure that every woman, child and young person who requires Women’s Aid services is able to access them at the right time.”
Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, added: “Scotland’s delivery plan for our Equally Safe Strategy includes an action to improve funding for frontline services. To do this, Scotland needs a two-prong approach. First, short-term, significant increases in local funding and protection from local budget cutting exercises that are dressed up as so-called good-practice competitive tendering. Second, we need a long-term plan to ensure adequate funding that is stable and sustainable.
“This is not rocket science, and developing a scheme that enshrines in law funding for a guaranteed minimum level of service can deliver system change so that Scotland complies with its international obligations as well as meets its national policy aims as laid out in Equally Safe.”