Equally Safe delivery plan: year two update report

An overview of progress made since the publication of the Equally Safe delivery plan in November 2017 and our priorities for the year ahead.

Highlights and Moving Forward: Priority One

Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls.


  • Positive gender roles are promoted
  • People enjoy healthy, positive relationships
  • Children and Young People develop an understanding of safe, healthy and positive relationships from an early age.
  • Individuals and communities recognise and challenge violent and abusive behaviour

The Equally Safe strategy prioritises primary prevention and challenges the notion that violence is inevitable or acceptable. Many of the actions being delivered under this priority are intended to raise awareness and challenge the existing attitudes that create the societal conditions for gender based violence to flourish. A range of activity has been undertaken in the past year across Scotland to help us achieve our objectives under this priority. Much of this activity has also provided a foundation to build upon over the coming year. Actions have included:


On-going work with Universities and Colleges to ensure the provision of a safe environment for students and staff, using learning from the ‘Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities’ project.

Our work is driven forward by the Equally Safe in colleges and universities Working Group, whose membership includes NUS Scotland, Universities Scotland, College Development Network, Police Scotland and the third sector.

The Equally Safe in Higher Education toolkit was launched in 2018 and has been adopted by a number of Higher Education Institutions across Scotland including: the University of Strathclyde; Robert Gordon University; Abertay University; the University of Aberdeen; UHI; the University of Stirling; the University of the West of Scotland; and the Fearless Edinburgh grouping of colleges and universities.

Undoubtedly universities and colleges are recognising the crucial role they have to play in tackling violence against women and girls and supporting and are increasingly taking forward their own initiatives. Fearless Edinburgh, a group of colleges, universities and third and public sector organisations in Edinburgh, founded to tackle gender based violence, has adopted the toolkit and other areas are learning from the success of this initiative. A Fearless Glasgow grouping, initiated by Glasgow Caledonian University, is now also in the process of formation.

The Working Group is informed by a Work Plan, agreed at its June 2019 meeting. Key pieces of work include the adaption of the toolkit for use in colleges, the completion of materials, including an on-line resource for staff and student education across the sector, the review of the Student Misconduct Guidelines, led by Universities Scotland, and the continued development of regional collaborative approaches, similar to Fearless Edinburgh and Fearless Glasgow.

The Scottish Government has supported three regional events, organised by the University of Strathclyde, which took place over March 2019. The events increased awareness of the toolkit and further encouraged regional collaboration. The learning has been distilled into a best practice resource for use by institutions in Fresher’s Weeks and start of the College Year.[2]

Information poster examples

In May 2019 the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science launched gender based violence and Mental Health Support stickers at Edinburgh Napier University. The stickers list national and confidential support services for people within a college or university setting experiencing gender based violence and/or mental health issues. These complement the gender based violence staff support cards launched by the Deputy First Minister in September 2018.

The launch of the Equally Safe at Work employer accreditation programme pilot.

Close the Gap has developed Equally Safe at Work, an innovative employer accreditation programme, that is being piloted in Scotland’s local government. The programme enables councils to undertake action that will advance gender equality at work, better support victim-survivors in the workplace, and prevent violence against women (VAW). Seven councils are participating in the pilot, with a further  18 councils engaged in a shadow group, the aim of which is to share learning from the pilot through a community of practice.

Activities delivered by early adopter councils has included convening cross-departmental working groups to oversee the delivery of organisational action  plans; producing internal and external leadership statements on VAW and work; delivering staff awareness raising work on gender equality and VAW, and Equally Safe at Work; developing improved data gathering systems to improve the   quantity and quality of gender-disaggregated data including staff experiences of VAW; reviewing and updating employment policies to ensure they are gender and VAW-sensitive; gathering benchmark quantitative and qualitative data from staff   on attitudes to, and experiences of, gender equality at work and VAW. Activities    for the remainder of the pilot will focus on delivering training for line managers on flexible working and VAW; disseminating guidance for line managers on VAW, and managing perpetrators; and developing organisation-specific initiatives to address occupational segregation.

The evaluation of Equally Safe at Work will measure if councils have an improved understanding of gender inequality and violence against women; improved understanding of their role in preventing violence against women and advancing gender equality; improved employment policies and practice that are gender- and violence against women-sensitive; and that tolerance of violence against women in the workplace has reduced. Following a successful evaluation, Close the Gap will explore a larger roll out of the programme.

Gender pay gap in median hourly earnings[3]

2015 2018
7.7% full time workers 5.6% full time workers
17.1% all workers 15% all workers

Progress with Equally Safe at School, a ‘whole schools’ approach to tackling gender inequality and violence against women and girls.

The Scottish Government have funded Equally Safe at School, a pilot whole school approach to preventing gender based violence, developed by Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) and steered in partnership with Zero Tolerance (ZT), with evaluation partners University of Glasgow.

Information - Safe Box

Over three years the intervention is being trialled and developed on an ongoing basis, promoting gender equality hand-in-hand with preventing and improving responses to gender based violence. Intervention mechanisms comprise an assessment, an action group formed of students and staff, staff training, a review of the curriculum and relevant policies and a young-person led initiative or campaign.

To date RCS and ZT have worked with three schools and are commencing work in a further four this academic year (2019-2020). The evaluation of the pilot will use baseline data and follow-up surveys with staff and students and focus groups to engage staff and students in discussions of ‘systems change’ to identify what aspects of the intervention are most impactful.

RCS and ZT will develop proposals following the project’s evaluation and will work with the Scottish Government and other key partners to identify next steps for the pilot programme.

Progress with the Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme (MVP)

Mentors in violence prevention is a peer education programme developed by the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit which aims to tackle gender based violence, bullying and other forms of violence.  MVP is being delivered by Education Scotland to young people in schools across 25 local authority areas. Based on the ‘bystander’ approach, MVP motivates everyone to get involved in safely challenging abuse and violent behaviour. The programme see pupils as the school’s greatest resource in achieving this and trains senior pupils to act as peer mentors who then deliver scenario based sessions to younger students in the school. MVP aims to empower students to safely speak out against all forms of violence, from rape and sexual assault, to bullying and abusive behaviour.

Pupil feedback received:

“I have learned a lot more about what emotional violence is and how to deal with it.”

“I understand better the warning signs within a relationship and if there are any red flags that are obvious.”

“I didn’t realise many of the red flags in relationships were actually red flags. I know now what to avoid and challenge if I ever come across it in a relationship.”

“Made me think more about what’s healthy mentally in relationships and how you should feel.”

Over 500 staff from 198 schools have completed professional training of either one or two days and over the last year (2018-19) approximately 2,600 young mentors have delivered 3,470 session to younger pupils. Following pre/post questionnaires 99% of participants felt a safe space was created to explore gender-based violence.

Recent developments include:

  • The creation of a new child sexual exploitation scenario, developed in conjunction with Fearless – an organisation providing support for people experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland who identify as a man or from the LGBT+ community
  • The first MPV Pilot programmes in Additional Support Needs (ASN) schools
  • The creation of an MPV film to promote engagement of male mentors

Violence Against Women and Girls: Primary Prevention Guidance for Community Planning Partners

We must be ready to respond to VAWG when it happens, but we should also work to prevent it from happening in the first place by tackling gender inequality, the root cause of this violence. Community planning partners have a key role to play in this, both within their own organisations and as members of local strategic partnerships.

The Improvement Service and Zero Tolerance, in partnership with the National Violence Against Women Network, have published guidance that supports local community planning partners to develop effective local strategies and activities to promote and embed gender equality and prevent VAWG from ever occurring.

Future support for Violence Against Women Partnerships and other community planning partners includes a webinar series highlighting examples of good practice across several of the thematic areas included in the guidance.

A Zero Tolerance Media Event attended by Luke Hart

The Scottish Government supported Zero Tolerance to host a round table discussion to bring together journalists – both experienced and those at the beginning of their career - editors and members of the women’s sector to share learning over the past six years, and to put in place concrete steps for the next few years to enhance media reporting on VAWG.

The event opened with Luke Hart presenting on his own harrowing personal experience of reporting on violence against women. Following the murder of his sister and mother at the hands of his father, Luke and his brother, Ryan, actively campaign to raise awareness of and speak out against violence against women and girls. His story generated engaged discussion and reflection on the accuracy of reporting in the media when certain myths and stereotypes are perpetuated, and the real impact reporting can have, both positive and negative.

This was followed by round table discussions aiming primarily to gather journalists’ thoughts about the difficulties surrounding reporting on VAWG as well as which parts of our work were visible and useful as well as ideas for the future.

The insights gathered at this event are being used to inform future work to influence more responsible reporting on VAWG and specifically have shaped ZT’s recent review of the organisation’s Handle with Care guidelines, now called Media Guidelines. The new guidelines can be found here:

Publication of the ‘Key messages for Professionals working with children and young people on consent and healthy relationships’ resource.

Cover Example

In May 2019, Scottish Government published a new resource for professionals to help them support young people’s understanding of healthy relationships and consent. This means that wherever a young person seeks advice - whether from a teacher, a health professional or a youth worker – they should receive consistent, age appropriate information.

The ‘Key Messages on Healthy Relationships and Consent’ have been developed as part of the Scottish Government’s work on supporting positive relationships and sexual wellbeing in young people. The messages set out that relationships should be mutually respectful, consensual, positive, healthy – and enjoyable. They are applicable to all romantic relationships regardless of whether they are in same sex or mixed sex relationships.

The messages can be incorporated into any work with young people such as education about relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP), information campaigns, one to one or group work, or into general discussions with young people.

They can be used as part of structured sessions or opportunistically / at teachable moments. In doing so, the intention is that a positive understanding of healthy relationships and consent will be consolidated over time.

Undertaking a review of Personal and Social Education (PSE)

The findings and recommendations of the review of Personal and Social Education (PSE) were published in January 2019. The Review came about following a report produced by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee on how PSE was being taught which recommended PSE be reviewed. The Review was conducted in three phases: phase one was a review of PSE teaching resources; phase 2 was a thematic inspection of PSE Delivery in 55 schools undertaken by Education Scotland; and phase three was a programme of engagement with key stakeholders and importantly with young people currently receiving PSE education in Schools. Following analysis of the findings of the thematic inspection and the views gathered during Phase three the Review identified 16 recommendations to strengthen the delivery of PSE in Scottish schools. In particular, the Review recommended current guidance be reviewed to strengthen delivery of consent education that is stage and age appropriate. It also identified the importance of involving young people in the design and delivery of PSE to make learning relevant and engaging.

Although some work is already underway, a PSE Delivery and Implementation Group will be formed to take forward the recommendations of the review which will be jointly chaired by Scottish Government and COSLA and an Implementation Plan will be made available on the Scottish Government website to report on progress.

A PSE Lead Officers Network has also been created with membership of teaching practitioners from across Scotland. The network has met several times since the recommendations from the PSE review were announced.

Since publication of the recommendations of the PSE Review, the Scottish Government has also committed, through its Programme for Government, to developing national guidance for schools which will set out the range of support and practical prevention and intervention measures available which can be used to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children and young people. Similar to the anti-bullying strategy, this document will be designed to ensure consistency in messages on sexual harassment and gender-based violence to everyone working with children and young people. It will be supported by appropriate teaching resources to help school staff deliver confident and meaningful learning to combat sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

The Scottish Government has also been working with key stakeholders to review and update the current teaching guidance for relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education. The guidance was launched during the annual Scottish Learning Festival and includes a section of further information on consent and healthy relationships which will give teachers additional support in delivering meaningful learning on this key topic. This section will complement the well-received document: ‘Key Messages for Young People on Healthy Relationships and Consent’ discussed above.

To ensure that the voices of children and young people at the heart of our approach in this area, we commissioned participation projects to consult with children and young people.

Everyday Heroes Programme

The Everyday Heroes Programme was funded by the Scottish Government to ensure children and young people – particularly young survivors of gender-based violence – influenced and participated in the development and implementation of the Equally Safe Delivery Plan. The reports detail their call for action to tackle gender inequality and improve justice and service responses. During the 16 Days of Action last year the Cabinet Secretary, Solicitor General and CoSLA met representatives of the Everyday Heroes to account for progress on their recommendations and hear their views in a lively exchange in Parliament. They pledged further action and worked with senior stakeholders and the Joint Strategic Board this year to take action forward and specify how young survivors might be involved.

Key Learning from the 2018/19 Equally Safe Quality Standards and Performance Framework Data Returns

Key Learning from the 2018/19 Equally Safe Quality Standards and Performance Framework Data Returns

The following examples of good practice identified through the Equally Safe Quality Standards and Performance Framework provide a snapshot of work taking place in local authority areas across Scotland to progress Priority Area 1:

  • Raising Awareness of the harmful impacts of Violence Against Women and Gender Inequality– Clackmannanshire
    Clackmannanshire Violence Against Women Partnership held a 16 Days event which raised the profile and understanding of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and was followed up with the development of a working group and further contributions to address CSE in Forth Valley. The VAW Partnership was also influential in setting out a priority for the Community Justice Partnership which cites the requirement to specifically address unhealthy gender constructs.
  • Collaborative working with Youth Work services - Dumfries and Galloway
    Youth Work Services within Dumfries and Galloway have integrated VAWG and information on healthy relationships into all their work across the region. They provide an interactive resource that covers forms of VAWG for young people during the Youth Beatz festival. This is Scotland’s largest free youth festival and is very well attended.
  • Working in partnership with primary and secondary schools – Glasgow
    The Glasgow VAW Partnership supports the delivery of two drama programmes. Crush is offered to every secondary school in the city and this drama is targeted at third-year pupils and explores abuse within teenage relationships. Gold Stars and Dragon Marks is a primary-school drama targeted at P5 to P7 and is delivered on a three-year rolling programme.
  • Working in partnership with colleges and universities – Highland
    University of Highlands & Islands (UHI) has commenced the Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities programme. The Highland VAW Partnership (HVAWP) sits on the Working Group and helped create UHI Staff Guidance on How to Respond to Disclosure of Gender Based Violence.

Representatives from the HVAWP delivered workshops at the West Highland College annual staff conference on rape culture and responding to trauma/ trauma informed practice. Inverness Women’s Aid participated in the recent UHI Equally Safe Further Education toolkit seminar, Love Doesn’t Hurt.

Moving forward

We intend to build on our achievements and successes and will take forward a range of initiatives in the coming year.

These will include:

  • Developing an age and stage appropriate resource on healthy relationships and consent, aimed at professionals working with younger children
  • Developing national guidance for schools which will set out the range of support and practical prevention and intervention measures available which can be used to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children and young people
  • Reviewing learning from the Equally Safe at Work and Schools initiatives to help inform next steps in these areas
  • Continuing to drive progress in our Equally Safe in colleges and universities project through an approved workplan
  • Developing a new MPV scenario on sexual harassment in schools, with plans to launch before the end of 2019.



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