In 2014, the Scottish Government launched Equally Safe, a strategy to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). In this context, an Independent Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls Services in Scotland ("the Review") was announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government. The Review will produce a report by June 2023, including the Chair's recommendation to develop a funding model focused on services for women, children and young people experiencing any form of VAWG. In June 2022, the Review launched a call for evidence to inform the Chair's recommendations on developing the new funding model.
The call for evidence was open from the 6th of June to the 15th of August and received 475 responses for at least one question, of which 393 responses were submitted by individuals and 82 by organisations. Among the responses received from organisations, 47 were from third sector organisations, 8 from local authorities/government, 4 from NHS Scotland and 23 from other types of organisations (partnerships and other types not specified). Additionally, the Review conducted 7 roundtable events with key stakeholders during the period in which the analysis was conducted, which also feed into this report.
Alma Economics was commissioned to provide independent analysis of the responses to the call for evidence and produce a comprehensive summary of individuals' and organisations' views. Responses were analysed using a mix of quantitative analysis (where summary statistics were calculated for closed-ended questions) and qualitative analysis (where open-text responses were read in full and analysed using thematic analysis).
The quantitative analysis of the responses to closed-ended questions showed that:
- 45% of respondents agreed that services for women and children experiencing VAWG should also be provided by other organisations in addition to third sector organisations, local authorities, the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and Police Scotland.
- 84% of respondents believed that access to services for those experiencing VAWG should be a right in law for any woman who needs them, and 82% believed this is also necessary for children or young people.
- More than 70% of respondents believed that services for victims of VAWG should be based on need in their local area and 43% of respondents believed services should be the same in every local area.
- The preferred optimum length for funding services is 5-years (34% of responses), while 31% preferred a funding period of 10-years.
The qualitative analysis of 355 open-ended responses revealed a set of cross-cutting themes, including, in order of those most frequently cited, requests for:
Single-sex spaces and services
The most frequent cross-cutting theme concerned the need for single-sex services and female-only staff. Respondents highlighted that single-sex services should be made into law, widely available, clearly advertised and co-exist with non-single-sex options. Responses suggested that single-sex spaces are vital to ensuring victims of VAWG feel safe and protected, otherwise women might self-exclude due to religious or cultural reasons.
Interagency collaboration and holistic approach to service delivery
Respondents described a holistic approach to VAWG as the combination of healthcare, forensic services, mental health support, financial aid, legal advice and refuges delivered in an integrated and coordinated way. Answers emphasised that victims/survivors of VAWG have multiple and overlapping needs which can only be addressed by combining services through a flexible and case-specific referral pathway. This is especially the case for victims with complex needs, such as those with addictions or mental health issues.
According to respondents, the current level of funding for services to tackle VAWG results in limited capacity to help victims and creates long waiting lists. In this context, both local authorities and the Scottish Government should provide adequate, long-term funding to plan effectively, increase the range of services offered and improve accessibility. Additionally, sufficient long-term funding would also ensure the long-term sustainability of VAWG provision, particularly regarding services provided by third sector organisations.
Respondents highlighted that the VAWG workforce should be specifically trained on issues related to VAWG and have a strong understanding of the complex needs of the people they will come into contact with. According to responses, a VAWG workforce possessing the aforementioned training would prevent survivors from experiencing further trauma as well as incentivise reporting as victims will feel confident that they will be adequately supported.
Responses mentioned the need for safe spaces, shelters or refuges to support victims of VAWG. Respondents frequently described these refuges as emergency accommodations, easily accessible and widely available to women and children escaping violent situations. Responses also mentioned timing and availability of these services, stating that it is key to ensure rapid provision and wide geographic coverage.
Mental health support
Respondents highlighted that victims of violence should have access to mental health care focused on improving wellbeing and with a trauma-informed approach. Types of support mentioned by respondents comprised 1-to-1 therapy sessions, peer support, group sessions and play therapy. Some respondents highlighted the importance of mental health support concerning self-confidence building as this would help individuals experiencing VAWG to escape from abusive partners or environments, move on from trauma and make their own choices.
Respondents discussed the need for legal and financial support for victims of VAWG – for example, signposting and advocacy as well as support for accessing benefits and immigration advice. Respondents also highlighted that people working in courts should have specialised training on how to handle VAWG cases and that the stigma surrounding survivors needs to be removed.
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