Publication - Report

National scoping exercise of advocacy services for victims of violence against women and girls

Published: 8 Aug 2017
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order

Report on the national scoping exercise of advocacy services relating to the criminal justice system for victims of violence against women and girls.

108 page PDF

1.3 MB

108 page PDF

1.3 MB

National scoping exercise of advocacy services for victims of violence against women and girls
1 Introduction

108 page PDF

1.3 MB

1 Introduction

1.1 The Scottish Government's Justice Directorate commissioned Blake Stevenson Ltd in July 2016 to undertake a national scoping exercise of advocacy services relating to the criminal justice system for victims of violence against women and girls. The scoping exercise included services supporting victims of domestic abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, rape and sexual assault. It also covered services available for children and for men where these may have an impact on women's services.

1.2 The requirements for the scoping exercise were to:

  • establish exactly what advocacy services are available across Scotland;
  • map the models used, including any variation and gaps;
  • detail the funding, accountability and governance arrangements in place;
  • identify the key outcomes sought by service providers and whether services collect monitoring data about these;
  • describe the way in which advocacy services are interacting with other facilities, organisations and systems in relation to delivering for victims of violence against women and girls;
  • examine whether there are isolated arrangements and where there is an integrated approach;
  • examine, within the local context, where barriers have formed and what needs to be done to adjust this to provide a more consistent victim-focused service; and
  • detail the risk assessment tools being used by service providers and where it is considered that service providers are meeting highest standards.

1.3 The brief for the work states that the final report should include recommendations of where further analysis and research may be required to promote consistency in advocacy services for victims of violence against women and girls across Scotland.

Background to the development of advocacy services responding to violence against women and girls in Scotland

1.4 'Advocacy' as a general term to describe a range of interventions with victims of violence against women and girls has been in use for the past 30 years across the UK. Until the late 1990s, specialist women's support services such as Women's Aid and Rape Crisis were the main providers of such advocacy. Their emphasis was on non-directive support and empowerment for women victims of domestic abuse and/or sexual violence, including support to report to the police and/or attend court.

1.5 Kelly and Humphreys (2000) [1] highlighted the growing recognition of the need for more integration, operationally and strategically. The projects reviewed included one in which a team of 'civilian' support workers, based in a police station, used advocacy to follow up domestic abuse incidents reported to the police. This proactive approach, and accepting third party referrals, was markedly different from the approach taken by most specialist women's support services up to then. The study notes that these new projects were working differently with victims, taking a more proactive approach and recognising:

'…individuals coming from positions of fear and isolation will often require the skills of an advocate to negotiate housing, legal support and benefit entitlements. It is the emphasis on rights and entitlements which distinguishes advocacy from other more familiar concepts like support.' (Kelly and Humphreys, 2000).

1.6 Against this backdrop and in the context of domestic abuse, the term 'advocacy' has been used in Scotland since the early 2000s. The first advocacy project in Scotland, ASSIST, was established to support the pilot domestic abuse court in Glasgow in October 2004. The evaluation of this specialist court acknowledged the value of the advocacy service, and a subsequent feasibility study recommended that the court, including the advocacy service, should develop across the Glasgow area.

1.7 There are now specialist domestic abuse courts in Ayr, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow, Livingston and Scottish Borders.

1.8 The first Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences ( MARACs) in Scotland were piloted in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire from 2005 [2] . A MARAC is a forum where information is shared on the highest-risk domestic abuse cases; options are considered for increasing the safety of the victim and their children; and a coordinated action plan is put in place. MARAC membership typically includes representatives from the police, criminal justice social work, children and families social work, health (including addictions, mental health and health visiting), housing, homelessness, Women's Aid and other specialist third sector advocacy organisations. The primary purpose of a MARAC is to increase the safety of victims of domestic abuse and their children.

1.9 In the MARAC context, advocacy services have subsequently developed in other areas of Scotland. In the absence of agreed standards or service specifications, this has happened in an ad hoc way. In some areas, advocacy services are linked to specialist courts. In others, they are linked to MARACs.

1.10 MARACs are now operating in 23 of the 32 local authority areas and a further seven areas are in the process of implementing MARACs. Until recently, the MARACs have developed their own structures and procedures and this has led to inconsistencies. At October 2016, the MARAC national development officer funded by the Scottish Government had run three regional workshops to support the capacity of MARACs in Scotland, and was developing tools and resources for the MARACs. The recommendations from the national MARAC development officer's baseline report [3] , however, highlight the extensive inconsistencies which remain to be addressed.

Training for advocates

1.11 In 2011, the Scottish Government funded a partnership of Scottish Women's Aid, ASSIST and Caada [4] (now SafeLives) to develop and deliver an SQA-accredited qualification for independent domestic abuse advocates ( IDAAs) in Scotland, based on the existing Caada training qualification for independent domestic violence advisers ( IDVAs) in England and Wales. At October 2016, the funding from the Scottish Government had supported 175 frontline staff to complete the training and receive the professional development award ( PDA) in domestic abuse advocacy. The course is now self-financing and training fees of £1,500 per person apply.

Scottish Government funding for advocacy services

1.12 In 2015-16 [5] , the Scottish Government funded 13 advocacy services and/or MARACs under the Violence Against Women and Girls Fund. In addition, it funded the national MARAC development officer, mentioned earlier, to support the development of a national MARAC framework.

1.13 One of the services funded by the Scottish Government is the National Advocacy Project, funded from October 2015 until March 2018, which is a partnership between Rape Crisis Scotland ( RCS) and its network of 14 local rape crisis centres, with RCS acting as coordinating partner. There are 15 FTE support and advocacy workers based in rape crisis centres plus one based in the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team ( DASAT) in West Lothian. Their role is to support survivors (men and women) of sexual violence engaged with, or considering engaging with, the criminal justice system. This work is guided by a national advisory group comprising representatives from RCS, Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) and local rape crisis centres. It aims to improve:

  • the support available to victims of rape and serious sexual crime;
  • the experience of the criminal justice process for victims of rape and serious crime; and,
  • understanding of motivations and factors to proceed or not to proceed within the criminal justice process.

National policy context on violence against women

1.14 The Scottish Government's strategic framework to address violence against women was published jointly with COSLA in June 2014, and updated in March 2016 [6] . The strategy locates work to address violence against women and girls firmly within an equality and human rights context. It identifies the need 'to eliminate the systemic gender inequality that lies at the root of violence against women and girls' and acknowledges that girls can experience gender-based violence from an early age.

1.15 The strategy notes that early intervention is key to reducing the longer-term effects of violence against women. This is particularly evident in domestic abuse, where the pattern of repeat offending and repeat victimisation can lead to long-term health and wellbeing issues for victims and their children.

1.16 Early identification of those at risk of violence against women is supported by awareness and skills training of professionals across all public services including housing, social work, education and health.

1.17 Once violence against women has been identified, the justice system response is critical. One of the four initial work streams for Equally Safe has focused on what is required to address any gaps in the justice system response, and several significant developments have taken place. This has included the development of some new legislation [7] and a review of the prosecution of domestic abuse. A consultation on a proposal for a new specific offence of domestic abuse has taken place, and a draft bill has been announced.

1.18 At the front end of the justice system, Police Scotland has taken a proactive and robust approach to violence against women, establishing a multi-agency task force to review the police response to rape and sexual assault, and continuing to promote the MARAC approach as a coordinated response to reducing the risks associated with domestic abuse.

Content of the report

1.19 The remainder of this report contains: