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 Three

Interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people.


  • Justice responses are robust, swift, consistent and coordinated.
  • Women, children and young people access relevant, effective and integrated services.
  • Service providers competently identify violence against women and girls, and respond effectively to women, children and young people affected.

We recognise the importance of ensuring that women and children are supported and that service providers identify violence against women and girls and respond effectively. A range of activity has been undertaken in the past year across Scotland to help us achieve our objectives under this priority. Much of the activity has also provided a foundation to build upon over the coming year. Actions have included:


Action to prevent and eradicate honour-based violence and abuse

Female Genital Mutilation

The Scottish Government considers Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to be an unacceptable and illegal practice, and an extreme violation of human rights. FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes a severe form of discrimination against women and girls. We are firmly committed to working with our partners across the public and third sectors, and potentially affected communities, to effectively tackle and eventually eradicate this unacceptable practice from our society.

We launched our National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM on the 4th February 2016. The plan sets out a series of actions and objectives that fall under three categories: Prevention, Protection and Provision. Some of our achievements to date include:

  • A multi-agency writing group, with membership from the statutory, third sector and community-based organisations developed non-statutory multi-agency guidance for agencies and organisations responding to, and supporting those affected by FGM.
  • The Scottish Government continues to fund a range of community-based organisations to raise awareness of the harmful effects of FGM; particularly through our Equally Safe Fund. For example, Community Info Source are receiving £75,000 over three years to invest into their project which seeks to combat FGM through awareness raising amongst men in potentially affected communities.
  • We have also established the FGM National Action Plan Implementation Group, which oversees the implementation of the Action Plan. The group facilitates engagement between the public and third sectors for a more cohesive and considered approach to meeting our objectives in eradicating FGM in Scotland.

In November 2019, we published a full progress report on the National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM.

In the National Action Plan, there was a commitment made to ensure that legislation to address FGM is fit for purpose. The Programme for Government 2018/19 contained a commitment to introduce a Bill strengthening the existing legislative framework for the protection of women and girls from FGM. The new Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on the 29th of May 2019 and includes provisions for FGM Protection Orders and Statutory Guidance. The Bill is currently up for the consideration of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

FGM Summit

The Scottish Government recently hosted a national summit which brought together a broad range of stakeholders to discuss preventing and eradicating FGM. In opening the summit Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities, said, “The Scottish Government considers FGM to be unacceptable and illegal. The practice is an extreme abuse and violation of human rights; it reflects deep-rooted gender inequality, and constitutes a severe form of discrimination against women and girls.”

The summit gave the Scottish Government an opportunity to hear stakeholder views of the Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Bill and the accompanying statutory guidance. The Scottish Government published its national action plan to prevent and eradicate FGM in 2016. This will expire in 2020. The summit allowed stakeholders to take stock of achievements since publishing the plan, and to see where more work is required.

Forced Marriage 

A forced marriage is an abuse of human rights. It is illegal for a person to use physical or emotional pressure, for whatever reason, to try and force a person into marriage without their consent. We are working collaboratively with our partners  in the statutory, third sectors, and communities to tackle these practices. We are committed to protecting those at risk and preventing the harm that can be associated with the practice. The law in Scotland provides both civil and criminal measures to do so.

The Scottish Government facilitates a multi-agency Forced Marriage Network to discuss the issue and allow for stakeholders to provide advice and information about best practice for the development of our policies in this area. We are currently in the process of developing a working plan, with clear objectives and actions for our work on preventing and eradicating Forced Marriage. This is being developed in close partnership with the members of the network. We are also in the process of refreshing our statutory guidance on Forced Marriage, with an aim of publishing by the end of March 2020.

Work underway on Scottish Women’s Aid Building Capacity Project: Equally Safe in Practice

The Scottish Government is supporting Scottish Women’s Aid to work with partners, the Improvement Service and Engender, to undertake capacity building, with a particular focus on the development of a model that creates and sustains a violence against women and girls (VAWG) training framework for Scotland.

The aim is to deliver affordable and high-quality gender and gendered VAWG training for public and third-sector organisations, VAW partnerships, and other policy and service providers in all areas of Scotland, informed by key VAWG organisations. The project has been renamed to Equally Safe in Practice (ESP) to reflect its purpose and activities.

A feasibility study report was completed earlier this year following consultation with a wide range of organisations and practitioners and identified a number of recommendations. One of the recommendations was to explore and review existing national training models and the staff team has engaged with the Welsh and Swedish national training models, learning from England WA training framework and learning from the successes and challenges of Training Consortia and National Training Strategy.

The team continue to engage key stakeholders and strategic partners to inform the development of the framework for Scotland.

Undertaking a consultation on how to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and other sexual crimes.

The Scottish Government Programme for Government in 2019/20 set out our intention to introduce the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill. Amongst other provisions, the Bill will provide the statutory basis for Health Boards across Scotland to establish a national self-referral model for victims of sexual crime who wish to have a forensic medical examination without first reporting to police. The Bill will underpin the work of the CMO taskforce, convened with the aim of improving healthcare and forensic medical services for adults and children who have experienced rape and sexual assault, or childhood sexual abuse.

Consultation on the legislative proposals to improve forensic medical services for rape and sexual assault closed in May and the analysis report has now been published.

Completion of the Bill’s parliamentary passage is subject to the will of Parliament.

Work underway to develop the Barnahus concept and explore how it can be applied in a Scottish context.

The Scottish Government reiterated their committed to exploring how the Barnahus concept could operate in the context of Scotland’s child protection, health and justice systems in Programme for Government 2019-20.

Barnahus (which literally means Children’s House) is a child- friendly, interdisciplinary and multi- agency centre for child victims and witnesses where children could be interviewed and medically examined for forensic purposes, comprehensively assessed and receive all relevant therapeutic services from appropriate professionals.

Typical interview room Barnahus Iceland
Typical interview room Barnahus Iceland

Barnahus originates in the Child Advocacy Model adopted in the US in the 1980s. It was firstly implemented in 1998 by Iceland followed by other Nordic countries (Sweden in 2005, Norway in 2007, Greenland in 2011, Denmark in 2013) under the name „Barnahus“ or Children’s House.

The Barnahus model was adopted in order to create a multi-disciplinary system that responds to the special needs of children about whom there is suspicion that they have been subjected to violence or abuse. It also derives from the principle that the needs of children in these cases are totally different from those of adults in the same situation.

Progress has been made on the development of Scotland-specific standards for Barnahus. The Scottish Government has asked Healthcare Improvement Scotland, in partnership with the Care Inspectorate, to develop such standards, based on the European PROMISE quality standards which outline best practice for countries who wish to develop the model. The standards are at the development stage, and a stakeholder scoping event took place on 19 June 2019. It is anticipated that draft standards will be available for consultation by the end of 2019, with finalised standards published by summer 2020.

The standards development group met for the first time in September 2019, and includes clinical expertise, health boards, children’s services, the third sector, and statutory justice partners and will be informed by children and young people’s lived experience. This will be assured by additional funding of £44,443 per year for two years from the Scottish Government to Children 1st to support funding for Participation and Children’s Rights Workers who will ensure the voices of childrenand their families inform our approach to justice including work to explore Barnahus.

Once published, the standards will form a framework for health, justice and local authorities to understand what is required to improve our collective response to child victims and provide a roadmap for developing our approach to Barnahus in Scotland.

Supporting the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, increasing women’s access to legal advice and advocacy services

The Scottish Government supports the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC), which was established in March 2015 and is a collaboration between Rape Crisis Scotland, JustRight Scotland and the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic. The SWRC provides improved access to justice through the provision of free legal information, advice, advocacy and representation to women who have or are experiencing gender based violence. Funding is provided by the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Scottish Government.

In the last year, funding has enabled geographic expansion to develop locally based legal services in Inverness and Dundee, and expand legal provision in the central belt. The SWRC provide a range of services, including a national helpline, legal surgeries, advocacy services, online legal guides, and the Sexual Harassment Legal Service. The legal helpline is available four days per week, with the sexual harassment helpline available on an additional fifth day. The face to face legal surgeries, offering appointments with a solicitor, are currently available in Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Forth Valley. The SWRC have engaged in multi-agency meetings to establish new surgeries which are now available in Dundee and Inverness. The SWRC aim is to increase access to legal support in other locations, particularly in rural areas where availability can be limited. A weekly advocacy helpline has also recently been launched to promote access to justice through information, signposting to services and non-legal representation.

Publishing updated No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Guidance published in February 2019

We realise that particular groups of women may be at an increased risk of domestic abuse or particularly vulnerable to its impact. Women who do not have settled status in the UK or recourse to public funds can be particularly vulnerable. On 27 February 2019, the Scottish Government and COSLA launched new guidance on NRPF for Scottish local authorities. The guidance is a valuable tool to help local authorities reach decisions about the support they can provide, within immigration rule restrictions, and in recognition of people’s human rights.

The Scottish Government funded the commission of the guidance and has supported its development. The guidance is available on the Scottish Strategic Migration Partnership website, which is run by COSLA: uk/migrants-rights-entitlements/introduction/1-1-how-use-guidance

Supporting the launching of a pilot to record complainer’s initial statement to police to be used as evidence.

The justice system should always take a victim-centred perspective in addressing sexual crime, and we are working with all partners – to ensure this happens across the board.

The Scottish Government has funded research by SCCJR, Justice Journeys,[5] published in August 2019, which will help build the evidence base on people’s experiences of the justice system to support particularly vulnerable people to give their best evidence. We will carefully consider the findings of the SCCJR Justice Journeys research and work with justice partners, victims organisations and researchers, such as SCCJR, to make a lasting difference.

The Justice Journeys research report has a specific recommendation that “Video recording of police statements to ensure their accuracy, as well as their use in court, should be strongly considered.”

We have worked with partners (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Police Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland) to finalise details of a pilot to visually record rape complainers’ initial statement to the police and consider the potential for these to be used in appropriate cases as evidence in chief in any subsequent trial. Applications to use these visually recorded interviews as evidence in chief could be combined with applications to take the witness’ evidence by commissioner which, if granted, would avoid the need for the complainer to give evidence in person during any subsequent trial.

The pilot which launched on 1st November 2019 is supported by the Scottish Government, and will be run by operational partners Police Scotland and the COPFS, and Rape Crisis Scotland is providing valuable advocacy support for victims. It will be trialled in three areas of Scotland which have rural and city locations, including one health care setting to embed a holistic response for the victim.

Much of the work in this area focuses on ensuring that victims and survivors have access to effective justice and service responses. However, we realise that many factors can have an impact on the response survivors and victims receive, including where they live.

Research: barriers to participation in action to end VAWG in rural areas

In 2017 Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) and Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) were commissioned to consult with women who have experienced violence against women (VAW) about being involved in the work of Equally Safe. As part of this work, SWA consulted with 188 women in the Highlands and Islands about the barriers women in rural areas face in participating in local action to end violence against women and girls. A report was published in September 2019 a report was published by SWA making 13 recommendations to the Scottish Government on how barriers to meaningful participation can be overcome.

On the publication of the report, Minister for Older People and Equalities Christina McKelvie wrote to the women who participated in this research to thank them for their efforts. She said:

“As we work to make Scotland safe for all women and girls, we recognise that those living in more rural areas face particular challenges. We also know that survivors with lived experience are key to making sure that our national strategy, Equally Safe, works at a local level.

“So, I want to extend a huge thank you to each of the 188 women who shared their views on how we can make sure survivors are included with our work to end violence against women in the Highlands and Islands. Your experiences speak volumes. You have been clear about what we can do to improve things and your insight and recommendations will be invaluable in shaping our approach going forwards.”

Key Learning from the 2018/19 Equally Safe Quality Standards & 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 3:

  • Ensuring adequate housing options are in place for women and children affected by domestic abuse – Fife
    Fife Council is leading on a project reviewing housing options in Fife supported by Scottish Government and involving a range of partners from both Fife Housing Partnership and Fife Violence Against Women Partnership. This involves exploring how the accommodation needs of those affected by VAWG in Fife are met, including improving processes, initial contact and housing options interviews. There is a focus on reducing homelessness and helping women to look at a range of other options. Ongoing work includes exploring how perpetrators can be re-housed, while women, children and young people safely remain in the family home.
  • Embedding the Safe & Together model – Renfrewshire
    Safe & Together training has been provided to staff across a number of organisations in Renfrewshire. Large groups of staff have heard directly from David Mandel over two sessions, social work managers have undertaken the one-day manager training, and some social work and police staff have undertaken the four-day training course. Renfrewshire GBV Partnership will review the provision of Safe and Together training over the next year to ensure that training is available as appropriate to the role.
  • Rolling out Routine Enquiry Training in Health Settings - South Lanarkshire
    Routine Enquiry training has been undertaken within all core health settings in South Lanarkshire with the exception of Emergency Care. This is due to incompatible facilities in the Emergency Care patient areas for suitability for carrying out Routine Enquiry on abuse. A rolling programme of training is available to ensure new staff have access to learning.
  • Identifying and Responding to Women and Children with Complex Needs – Stirling
    Stirling are undertaking a pilot with Safe Lives on barriers for women with learning disabilities who have experienced GBV to address the gaps in support. Forth Valley Rape Crisis service is able to provide support in three community languages other than English and can cover limited interpreting costs. They also take a trauma-informed approach and are able to offer support to those with complex needs with the partnership of other local and national agencies. Shakti Women’s Aid has also worked closely with a number of voluntary and statutory organisations in Stirling to build a better support network and to provide an effective service which meets the needs of the BME women and their children. Shakti continue to arrange training and awareness session with other organisations and groups.


Cedar (children experiencing domestic abuse recovery) is Scotland’s leading evidence-based recovery programme available for children and young people. Cedar supports children and young people and their mothers in recovering from their experiences of domestic abuse by focusing on strengthening the mother-child bond. Cedar’s vital early intervention work provides key contributions to improving outcomes for children and young people and in tackling violence against women and girls. With initial funding from Scottish Government to pilot Cedar in three areas from 2008 to 2011, Cedar has now been in Scotland for over a decade. There are currently 10 Projects across the country; the majority have been funded by the National Lottery Community Fund over the last seven years, with some Projects receiving funding from their local authority and independent funders.

The recent National Cedar Conference in May 2019 highlighted the vital need for domestic abuse recovery programmes such as Cedar and showcased Cedar’s strengths in early intervention work. The event welcomed over 100 delegates representing over 60 organisations and agencies, with speakers ranging from COSLA, the Scottish Government and the National Procurator Fiscal  for Domestic Abuse. A number of Cedar young people and mother graduates delivered keynotes and workshops on their recovery journeys, with delegates reflecting that the graduates’ experiences were evidence of the “collective impact that has been made nationally with Cedar in the 10 years it has been running”.

Cedar supports children and young people and their mothers in recovering from their experiences of domestic abuse

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:

  • Taking the Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) Bill through its parliamentary stages
  • Introducing the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill
  • Supporting the development of the Equally Safe Multi Agency centre in Edinburgh which will bring expert from child and adult protection, healthcare, police and social work to provide age-appropriate, wrap-around care for children and young people and adults who have been victims of sexual assault and other forms of abuse and neglect
  • Considering the outcome of Lady Dorrian’s review of the management of sexual offences and how they can be better conducted through the courts
  • Supporting the development of trauma training packages for justice organisations who come into contact with victims
  • Developing an online resource about gender based violence for children and young people, to provide better access to information and support
  • Legislating in this Parliament to provide the police and courts with new powers to bar a suspected perpetrator of domestic abuse from returning to the home of the person at risk of abuse. This will reduce the threat of homelessness for victims who seek safety for themselves and often for their children. Protective orders will allow our justice system to safeguard people who, for example, are being controlled to such an extent that they do not have the means to initiate court action themselves.



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