4. Referral rates
Referral rates during Phase 3 were varied across Scotland. Some services reported no significant increases from previous Phases, and observed referrals to have returned to equivalent 'pre-COVID' periods. However, a number of services reported significantly increased referral rates, with increases varying between 44% and 50% across different organisations.
A number of services communicated they were at capacity due to increased referral rates. Where services had refuge facilities, refuge requests were higher. One service reported that requests for refuge had doubled compared with the equivalent period in 2019. One service that supports male and LGBT+ victims reported referral rates had increased significantly during Phase 3, rising from approximately one new referral per week to between one and two per day. One service noted a significantly higher number of first time callers to their helpline, and another, national service reported that their accepted cases and waiting list numbers increased exponentially during this period. Another service had similarly high referrals and had responded by prioritising clients based on risk, and introducing a waiting list for those who were assessed not to be in crisis or in urgent need. The service manager reported this had negatively affected frontline staff as they did not feel as they were meeting victims' needs. One national service noted that the inability to provide definite start dates for support meant that maintaining engagement from clients/families was difficult. A service manager from the organisation provided that families were "desperate for support and really want to start recovery". A number of other services had also introduced or increased their waiting lists, or reduced their programme of support sessions to accommodate higher numbers (for example, reducing the standard allocation of 24 support sessions to 12 sessions).
A number of organisation noted an increase in referrals to Marac from their service. In Aberdeen, a fourth Marac was established to address increasing referrals. It was also noted there was an increased number of female perpetrators with a male victim being referred to Marac in Aberdeen.
One service noted an increase in the severity of abuse in their received referrals, observing higher levels of coercive control and the increased vulnerability of some victims. The service noted that Domestic Abuse Stalking and Honour Based (DASH) risk assessments were consistently indicating higher levels of risk, increased fear among victims, more severe threats and higher levels of physical and sexual violence.
Despite the anticipated increase in referrals from schools, there were very few services who noted the children returning to school correlated with increases in referrals from education.