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
2 Research Methods

108 page PDF

1.3 MB

2 Research Methods

2.1 In this chapter, we describe the methods used to undertake the scoping exercise, and we make associated comments.

2.2 A steering group from the Scottish Government's Justice Directorate, together with members of the Gender LGBT Equality and Violence Against Women Team, met with the research team four times during the research. At the outset, the group agreed the definition of 'advocacy' to be used:

'Advocacy is a crisis intervention, focused on risk assessment and safety planning for victims of gender-based violence with the goal of improving safety and reducing risk of further abuse. Advocacy is also seeking to enable victims to access, navigate and have a voice through the criminal justice process.'


2.3 We adopted a mixed-method approach which combined the following elements in order to ensure we gathered representative information about the advocacy services available:

  • a literature review;
  • a preliminary mapping of possible advocacy services using telephone calls and snowballing techniques;
  • an online survey sent to all the services identified in the mapping process;
  • interviews with a sample of 24 services managers (and some staff interviews where possible) from a cross-section of those who had completed the online survey; and
  • interviews with stakeholders from ten national organisations. Appendix 1 contains details of all those interviewed and Appendix 2 provides the interview schedules. Appendix 3 contains the online survey questions. Appendix 5 provides a summary of key information from the 67 organisations participating in the survey.

The literature review

2.4 Chapter 3 contains the summary and Appendix 4 the full literature review. The literature review focuses on the development of advocacy as a response to violence against women and girls in the UK, and presents the results from main multi-site evaluations. The review informed the survey and interview questions, and helped to identify a typology of services and the main features of advocacy.

Preliminary mapping of advocacy services

2.5 We started the mapping of advocacy services by contacting all Violence Against Women Partnership ( VAWP) coordinators. We followed this up with contact with Police Scotland, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and child protection coordinators in each local authority area. We also contacted other sources such as the National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline; Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline; Men's Advice Line; LGBT Youth Scotland; Childline Scotland; Amina; Roshni; With Scotland; Inclusion Scotland; Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People; the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance; the Scottish Refugee Council; and Enable for their information about local advocacy services available across Scotland.

2.6 With each of these contacts, we asked if they were aware of any other advocacy services in their area(s), and we cross-referenced their suggestions against our main spreadsheet of services. We gathered a total of 176 named services to which we sent the link for the online survey. Ten services responded directly to say they did not offer advocacy services bringing the possible number of responses down to 166.

Online survey

2.7 After we had sent out the survey link, we sent several general reminders. After reviewing which services had responded, we approached some non-respondents which we considered to be possible key advocacy services. We received responses from 67 services which confirmed that they worked within the definition of advocacy. Of the 166 possible responding organisations, this gives a 40% return [8] .

Interviews with service managers

2.8 We selected 24 service providers across Scotland for qualitative interviews. We based the selection on the typology of service provision we had designed from the literature review. We included different models of service provision, reaching different target groups and with different management arrangements. We also wanted to make sure we had a geographical spread across the country. We agreed the list with the steering group (see Appendix 1).

2.9 We had hoped to speak with frontline advocacy workers in these services as well as with the service manager to see if their views differed. This proved difficult because of the research time constraints and the staffing capacity of advocacy services. Where we did manage to speak to advocates, we found that their views reflected those of the service manager, and so we do not think too much has been lost by not being able to speak to more frontline advocacy workers.

Interviews with national stakeholders

2.10 We agreed a list of key national stakeholders with the steering group (see Appendix 1). In addition, we ran two discussion groups with the Violence Against Women Partnership ( VAWP) Network coordinators at their regular meeting. These interviews provided a more strategic overview to the service manager interviews, and were particularly helpful in reflecting on the barriers and gaps at this level.

Notes to methodology

The definition

2.11 The agreed definition is in two parts: the first part focuses on advocacy as crisis intervention providing risk assessment and safety planning; the second part on helping victims navigate and have a voice through the criminal justice system. The definition was not conceived as an 'either/or' but as both elements combined.

2.12 The literature review has not found a definition of advocacy. It has established the main components of an advocacy service which include: independence from the justice system; assertive/proactive outreach; crisis intervention; and, specifically relating to domestic abuse, risk assessment. The definition was vital in guiding the research, but respondents interpreted it differently. Some services which responded to the survey provide both elements of the definition; others only one.

2.13 One national stakeholder thought that the distinction between 'advocacy' and 'support' is artificial. For example, some organisations provide what they called 'soft advocacy' which combines emotional support, help with accommodation and linking with the police and the justice system. A group discussion with VAWP coordinators echoed this point. Their view was that advocacy and support are not two points on a straight line, and there needs to be capacity to move between them if advocacy is to be dynamic and responsive.

The mapping

2.14 The initial mapping of possible advocacy services was comprehensive, and we do not think any significant advocacy service has been missed out. But people suggested services which either did not offer advocacy, or in some instances did offer advocacy, but not specific to victims of violence against women and girls. All the suggested services were included in the survey and may account for some of the non-respondents (as being services that do not provide advocacy within the definition).

The online survey

2.15 Inevitably, there may be a few organisations which provide advocacy but which have not responded to the online survey: this is often the case in research of this nature. We reviewed the list of non-responders and persuaded a few more to respond as we thought they were significant. We assume that some of the non-respondents are those that had been suggested during the mapping stage but which do not provide advocacy services. Given that we have survey data from 67 services covering all the main known providers, and that we have undertaken qualitative work with 24 of these, the information gathered is robust enough to allow us to analyse key findings and draw conclusions.

2.16 In conducting face-to-face interviews, we occasionally found discrepancies between the information provided in the online survey and what people said at interview. These were minor and did not make a significant difference to the findings.

2.17 The combination of research methods has allowed us to address each of the research requirements to produce reliable findings.


2.18 Quotes from interviewees have been anonymised but we have indicated the type of organisation represented categorised as: local voluntary sector organisation; national body; local authority-based service; court-based service; service co-located with police; health-based service.