Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie has called on the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland’s good record of support for Domestic Abuse, Rape and related services is not allowed to fall by the wayside.
Commenting on a new report highlighting the postcode lottery of services, Cathy said:
“The Map of Gaps is extremely worrying. The pioneering work that Scotland has been recognised for is in danger of being undone because the government has lost its focus on the problem. Services are already patchy – and in some areas, non-existent. That is likely to become worse.
“This report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland and the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) shows that Scotland still leads the rest of the UK, but also highlights the changes that are taking place in funding as a result of the Scottish Government Concordat, with few councils identifying Violence Against Women as a priority or referring to any plan in their Single Outcome Agreements, and over a third making no mention at all.
“Falkirk, in common with almost half the local authorities, refers to Domestic Abuse under the reducing crime National Outcome.
“There are differences in how services are provided, but what is clear from this report is firstly that far too many areas of the UK are in the totally unacceptable situation of having no services available at all; and secondly that in all areas there is room for improvement.”
Cathy, who is the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on the issue, has tabled a motion drawing attention to the report:
S3M-03344 Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Lab): Map of Gaps – That the Parliament welcomes the Map of Gaps 2 report and website www.mapofgaps.org from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the End Violence Against Women coalition; notes with alarm that three million women across the United Kingdom experience violence each year; further notes that over a quarter of local authority areas across Britain have no specialised violence against women support services, such as rape crisis centres, refuges, domestic violence outreach projects and services for black and minority ethnic women; recognises the need for local authorities and other public bodies to undertake needs assessments under their gender equality schemes and to ensure both sufficiency and diversity of provision; welcomes that, as with the previous report from December 2007, Scotland leads the way in provision and that this, in part, is due to Scotland being the only part of the UK to take an explicitly gendered policy approach to violence against women; is concerned however that the removal of ring-fenced funding for local services may be leading to a dilution of focus and support, and calls on the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure that rigorous needs analysis and equality impact assessment, as required by the Gender Equality Duty (GED), are central to future single outcome agreements.
The maps also show that while Scotland is leading the way in terms of provision there is still a long way to go with:
- A woman raped in Inverness having to travel nearly 100 miles to access a service
- Only 2 services in whole of Scotland catering specifically for BME women
- Only 1 perpetrator programme in the whole of Scotland
- Only 1 Specialised Domestic Violence Court in Scotland
- three million women in Britain experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or other forms of violence every year
- many more women are living with abuse experienced in the past or as a child
- thousands of women are left without any support whatsoever
EHRC Scotland Commissioner Morag Alexander said:
“The second Maps of Gaps report highlights the shocking and depressing story that still too many women are failed in terms of violence against women provision across Britain. I’m pleased that this report still shows that Scotland is leading the way and this can be attributed to the Scottish Governments strategic approach to violence against women. However, the Commission has real concerns that Scotland’s gains may now be diluted by the delegation of responsibility to local authorities – the same system which is failing in the rest of Britain. We have already seen the immediate impact this had, with the loss of the Violence Against Women co-ordinator in the Western Isles, creating a huge gap in service provision for that area. How many more services will this happen to? We owe it to every woman to let them feel safe, secure and respected. The approach in Scotland, so far, has proved to be the most successful and I call upon the Scottish Government and all our Local Authorities to ensure that this remains the case.”
Ann Hamilton, Zero Tolerance Trustee and a member of the End Violence Against Women coalition stated:
“Providing support for women experiencing the often traumatic impact of domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault and other forms of male violence is an absolute necessity for public agencies. There has been a huge investment in Scotland to encourage those experiencing abuse to come forward and seek help. The message from this report is that we need to better resource services in place at present and address the gaps as a matter of urgency. The other pressing priority is work to prevent violence against women happening at all and to influence the attitudes of boys and girls, men and women. Without this we will always need services to respond to the harm caused.”
The new online maps allow politicians and public bodies to gauge provision in their area in order to improve support for women.
Local Authorities are legally obliged, under the Gender Equality Duty, to promote equality between men and women. In failing to provide adequate services for women who have experienced violence, they may be breaching the Duty and are therefore acting unlawfully. The Commission considers this issue to be a key test against which it will judge Scottish Government departments and local authorities, health boards and the police in assessing how they meet their legal action being undertaken.
In 2007, the inaugural Map of Gaps report documented for the first time the uneven distribution of specialised violence against women (VAW) services in the UK, such as Rape Crisis Centres and refuges. The findings were alarming: over one-third of local authorities had no service provision at all. Only a minority had a diversity of services to provide routes to safety, help and support and help rebuild lives.
One year on, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the End Violence Against Women Campaign (EVAW) have repeated this research, to see if the picture of support has changed for the millions women who are forced to deal with the legacies of violence.
The report maps those specialised VAW services that are are defined by two inclusion criteria for the purposes of this study: that the organisation works primarily on violence; and that it provides significant direct support to female victim-survivors.
National helplines have not been mapped, since they do not have geographical catchment areas, and are thus difficult to place. What are mapped, therefore, are: organisations in the independent women’s voluntary/third VAW sector (refuges, community domestic violence projects, rape crisis centres, sexual violence support services); specialised services within the statutory sector that provide significant support, including: Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) and Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs); prostitution, trafficking and sexual exploitation services; health sector female genital mutilation (FGM) services; perpetrator programmes that are members of the RESPECT network, since they have signed up to work in accordance with RESPECT’s principles and minimum standards, which include an associated support service for women.
To download a copy of Map of Gaps II visit www.mapofgaps.org