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
4 Findings

108 page PDF

1.3 MB

4 Findings


4.1 The findings presented in this chapter draw on all aspects of the research including the literature review, the online survey responses, and the service manager and national stakeholder interviews.

4.2 The chapter is set out under the following headings:

  • how services define advocacy;
  • what advocacy services are available across Scotland;
  • funding, accountability and governance arrangements;
  • how advocacy services interact and relate with other facilities, organisations, systems;
  • outcomes sought and monitoring data;
  • risk assessment tools being used;
  • what models of advocacy services are available;
  • gaps; and
  • barriers and consistency.

How services define advocacy

4.3 The literature review helped identify some of the main components of advocacy services but within these, some are more suited to responding to particular forms of abuse: for example, risk assessment is an integral element of the advocacy response to domestic abuse but may be less relevant, depending on the circumstances, to victims of sexual violence.

4.4 The definition set for this research was queried by some respondents as being too broad; by others, as too narrow. Of those who found it too broad, several stated that they do not provide crisis intervention: this includes the Scottish Women's Rights Centre, which does provide help to navigate the criminal justice system. One rape crisis centre said it does not provide crisis intervention, while another rape crisis service said:

"…. the nature of rape crisis is that sometimes advocacy can be very long and drawn out given the nature of the legal process and court process. Am thinking of different situations: if an assault has been very recent - like a matter of hours - that's a crisis intervention. But a lot of times we would have survivors taking some time to consider before going to police. For some people, they are not necessarily at risk at that point."

4.5 One service said it could not provide crisis intervention because its working hours are weekdays 9am to 5pm.

4.6 Crisis intervention is an immediate response to victimisation designed to help victims cope with physical, emotional, and psychological trauma in the aftermath of a crime [11] . In the case of sexual violence, those who have been recently raped or sexually assaulted may need immediate medical and police intervention and someone to talk to; they may need advocacy support, counselling and a range of other assistance in the long term (Henderson, 2012) [12] .

4.7 Clearly, different respondents defined 'crisis intervention' differently. It may be related to the timing of the service and/or what is happening for a particular victim at a moment in time. A victim may be 'in crisis' for many different reasons, and may require different responses.

4.8 For some interviewees, the definition is too narrow as they provide more than 'just' advocacy as the following quotes from service manager interviewees illustrate:

"Don't think it should be so limited. Our worker does not make a strict division between advocacy and other support." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"Our service is wider than that. You're talking about risk and safety and it is part of that, because it is about criminal justice - we have a court worker. But what happens when the crisis passes? That's the time when women are probably ready to move, and our work incorporates that. Whether it's benefits, furniture, getting the weans a taxi to school - it's about what they need. It's an assessment of need as well as risk. That need might just be about pointing someone in the right direction. It's the navigation bit, directing them to other organisations out there or to community projects. But the aim is (for us) to withdraw, to empower women. It's really about empowering because at the end of the day agencies are only there for a short period of time." (local authority-based service)

4.9 While the majority were happy to accept the definition as being a reasonable summary of what one might expect to find within an advocacy service, there are clearly nuances within this, and very few services wholly meet the definition agreed for this study. As one public sector interviewee expressed it:

"The definition of advocacy is very blurred across the country - we don't have a clear definition [of what advocacy is]. How can we apply minimum standards if we don't know what we are working to?" (national body)

What services are available across Scotland

4.10 From the survey responses and from the qualitative interviews, the main providers of advocacy services that meet at least some part of the definition are laid out below. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of providers in each category, as the 83 organisations which did not respond to the survey could not be categorised:

  • court-linked/based services: ASSIST, based in Glasgow; Edinburgh Domestic Abuse Court Service ( EDDACS); West Lothian Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team ( DASAT); Scottish Borders Domestic Abuse Advocacy Support ( DAAS);
  • Women's Aid groups: 15 groups responded to the survey saying they provide advocacy services but we understand that there are IDAAs in 27 groups;
  • rape crisis centres and the RCS National Advocacy Project: 15 advocates in total;
  • services co-located with the police: Domestic Abuse Advisory Service, East Lothian; ASSIST, Glasgow; MIA (Multi-Agency Independent Advocacy), Dundee; Multi-Agency Domestic Abuse Response Team ( MADART), North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership;
  • services co-located or linked closely to health services: Archway, sexual assault referral centre, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde; EVA Services, NHS Lanarkshire;
  • a range of individual third sector organisations such as Committed to Ending Abuse ( CEA) in Falkirk and Ceartas in East Dunbartonshire;
  • specialist services, with an advocacy element, (for example the TARA (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance) Service which offers advocacy and other support to victims of human trafficking; AMIS (Abused Men in Scotland) which offers advocacy and support to male victims of domestic abuse; Fearless, a project established by Sacro, LGBT Youth Scotland, Respect and Shakti Women's Aid to reach marginalised victims of abuse; Archway, sexual assault referral centre; Kingdom Abuse Survivors Project, Fife.

4.11 Victim Support Scotland ( VSS) has good geographic coverage but is a generic service for victims of any crime rather than women and girls experiencing gender-based violence. Nationally, it reports that it fits the second part of the definition: enabling victims to navigate the criminal justice system and to have a voice.

4.12 The Scottish Women's Rights Centre ( SWRC) is not an advocacy service but provides civil legal advice and assistance. It aims to ensure that women in Scotland who have been affected by gender-based violence are able to access timely and appropriate legal advice and information. It currently has one solicitor funded to cover Glasgow and parts of Strathclyde; recent additional funding will allow for an advocacy worker, and three further solicitors to cover the east and north of Scotland. SWRC is a partnership between Rape Crisis Scotland, the Legal Services Agency and the University of Strathclyde.

When services are available

4.13 Table 1 shows that most advocacy services are available weekdays in office hours. Ten advocacy services provide a daytime service at weekends and four an evening service at weekends. A few said that they offered a late night once or twice a week, or that they worked flexibly around their service users, for example for safety planning reasons or to accommodate paid work commitments. The speed at which an advocate can respond to a police referral, for example, can be important in reducing a victim's likelihood of minimising the abuse and in increasing her safety. This may also mean that, for domestic abuse, there may be less likelihood that the woman's case needs to go to a MARAC (because risk and safety have been responded to promptly).

Table 1: Reported hours of availability

Table 1: Reported hours of availability

Note: All tables indicate n based on the number of respondents who answered that particular question.

Staffing and qualifications

4.14 The online survey results show that the advocacy services that responded report having a total of 299.24 FTE advocacy staff between them. This includes services such as rape crisis centres and some Women's Aid groups which have one advocacy worker, ASSIST which has 23 FTE advocacy staff and variations in between. Glasgow Women's Aid said that all its staff are advocacy workers.

4.15 Thirty-seven organisations (55%) stated that at least one member of staff holds a specialist qualification in domestic abuse advocacy. Twenty-eight organisations (45%) do not have a member of staff with a specialist domestic abuse advocacy qualification.

4.16 Of those who reported holding a qualification, the most common qualification was the professional development award ( PDA) in Domestic Abuse Advocacy/ IDAA (mentioned by 29 organisations [13] .

4.17 Others mentioned other learning/training which is not specialist advocacy training. These included internal training such as VSS internal staff training; restorative justice relationship therapy (which focuses on counselling); and the Queen Margaret University/ SWA gender justice module.

4.18 There is scope for continuing to offer professional training to new domestic abuse advocates. Several interviewees were concerned that, now this training has to be paid for by services rather than the Scottish Government (see para 1.11), there may be less take-up.

Types of advocacy service offered

4.19 We asked survey respondents to state the types of abuse they address. Table 2 shows the responses. It demonstrates that domestic abuse is the most common type of abuse for which advocacy is available (59, 88% of respondents), followed by rape and sexual assault (35 respondents, 52%). Advocacy services which respond to prostitution, human trafficking and other forms of violence against women and girls are less common, as shown below. As this research was not concerned with identifying demand, it is not possible to state whether the fact that there are less services reflects lower demand. However, from the qualitative interviews we do know that the national organisation charged with providing advocacy services for violence linked to human trafficking spoke of the difficulties of providing the service in areas further from the central belt.

Table 2: Types of abuse addressed by advocacy services

Table 2: Types of abuse addressed by advocacy services

4.20 The 'other' types of abuse addressed included historical childhood sexual abuse, stalking, harassment and honour-based violence.

4.21 The service manager and national stakeholder interviews confirmed the findings of the literature review that domestic abuse advocacy is better served and longer-established than advocacy for other forms of gender-based violence. Interviewees identified that rape and sexual assault were the next best served, and that other forms of gender-based violence were less so. Interviewees identified that advocacy for trafficking, prostitution, female genital mutilation, stalking and harassment was a significant gap.

4.22 The survey asked each respondent to state in which local authority area(s) their advocacy service is offered. Table 3 illustrates the results. It shows that most services are located in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Table 3: Services available in each local authority area

Table 3: Services available in each local authority area

Range of advocacy services provided

4.23 We asked respondents to tell us about the range of advocacy services they provide. Table 4 illustrates their responses. All services engage and communicate with other agencies on behalf of the victim, and most provide safety planning, support through the reporting process, and information on related issues.

4.24 Fifty-eight respondents (87%) stated that they carry out risk assessment and nine services stated that they do not. Of these, several relate to rape and sexual assault which, as already mentioned, may not necessarily require a formalised risk assessment, depending on whether the perpetrator was known to the victim.

4.25 Fifty-six respondents (84%) stated that they provide practical support and 55 respondents (82%) that they provide support through the court process. Forty-five respondents (67%) provide advocacy and support through the MARAC. Thirty respondents (45%) said they provide advocacy for children and young people.

4.26 Eleven respondents mentioned offering other services including one service which works with the abusive partner separately, where the risk is manageable; a few which provide safe accommodation or refuge; and a few which provide support through the forensic process, or mention providing legal advice and representation.

4.27 Specialist advocacy services for children and young people appear to be less frequently available. More detail is required as to the exact nature of the services that the 30 respondents who said they offer advocacy services for children are supplying. Interviewees frequently mentioned this as a gap. We return to this later in this chapter.

Table 4: Range of advocacy services provided

Table 4: Range of advocacy services provided

Access to services

4.28 We asked survey respondents to indicate how people access their services. The results (see Table 5) show that 88% of services received self-referrals, and 85% of services received referrals from police and social work. Almost half of the services stated that people accessed their services as a result of proactive outreach. From the interviews, it is clear that services may have different interpretations of 'proactive outreach'. For example, one Women's Aid group talked of reaching women through awareness raising in the community. For ASSIST, proactive outreach means following up with women who have been referred by the police following an incident, offering the advocacy service, and being prepared to offer it more than once if the woman does not initially want to engage with the service. Several service managers stressed the importance of such proactive work, and some were concerned that they lacked capacity to do as much of this as they think is necessary.

Table 5: Ways in which people access advocacy services

Table 5: Ways in which people access advocacy services

Note: services selected all of the sources from which they receive referrals.


4.29 Table 6 sets out the location of services. The most common location for advocacy services is within independent/parent-body voluntary organisations (54, 80% of 67 respondents). Thirteen (19%) are located within another public/local authority setting or with the police. Only one service, Archway sexual assault referral centre, states that it is located within the health service.

Table 6: Location of respondent advocacy services

Table 6: Location of respondent advocacy services

Gender of client group

4.30 Table 7 below shows that just under half of services, (33; 49%), work with men and women; 30 (45%) work with women only. One organisation, Abused Men in Scotland ( AMIS), works with men only (including non-binary people).

Table 7: Services available by gender

Table 7: Services available by gender

4.31 Table 8 shows that just under one third of advocacy services were available to children, aged 12 or under, however no service worked exclusively with children. The number of advocacy services increases with each age bracket until age 25. Two services said they did not work with people over age 25. We know from Table 5 (above) that 30 services offer advocacy support to children and/or young people over the age of 13 while 46 refer on to other services. We do not know who they are referring on to nor whether any specific advocacy services are offered by social work/child protection. This aspect needs further research to understand in detail what is currently being offered: support or advocacy. However, there is a general sense from those we interviewed that there is a deficit of specific advocacy support for children and young people.

Table 8: Services available by age range

Table 8: Services available by age range

4.32 Around 43% of respondents reported providing specialist support to people with protected characteristics, most commonly BME and LGBTI people (see Table 9). However, survey question selection patterns and qualitative comments indicate that responses were to do with offering an 'all-inclusive' service rather than a targeted approach. Interviewees mentioned the challenges of meeting the needs of some BME women, for example with interpreting and working with different cultural norms.

Table 9: Services available for those with protected characteristics

Table 9: Services available for those with protected characteristics

Note: services selected all the specific groups they work with.

Funding, accountability and governance arrangements


4.33 We asked survey respondents to identify all their sources of funding. Table 10 below shows that the Scottish Government was the most frequently mentioned source, identified by over 60% (41) of respondents, while 39% (26) mentioned local authority funding. The BIG Lottery was the third most frequently mentioned funder with 30% (20). Sources specified by those selecting 'other' included various charitable trusts and funds, local partnerships or private donations.

Table 10: Main sources of funding

Table 10: Main sources of funding

4.34 We asked survey respondents how long their current funding is due to last (see Table 11). Of the 56 respondents to this question, nearly half (27, 48%) said their funding lasted for a further six to 12 months and a further 15 (27%) said between 12 and 24 months. In the voluntary sector one-to-three-year funding is the norm. The Scottish Government VAWG Fund is for a year [14] .

4.35 Most service managers raised a lack of resources and consequent lack of capacity as challenges. For some, this means not knowing if the service will survive beyond 31 March 2017. For others, it means having to prioritise who they work with and when. For example, ASSIST is prioritising those considered as 'highest risk'. It no longer accepts referrals marked as 'no crime' [15] or with insufficient evidence to proceed. The lack of resources and capacity was also noted in survey responses. A fifth of services are running a waiting list with numbers on these lists ranging from two to 50. Over three quarters of survey respondents placed their service in the range of demand outstripping capacity by some degree. Ten services indicated very high demand and insufficient capacity.

4.36 These findings represent a risk to services and service users.

Table 11: Reported end of current funding

Table 11: Reported end of current funding


4.37 The responses to the question 'Who is responsible for this service?' show that, of the 67 respondents, 45 (67%) are managed by an independent voluntary organisation and nine (13%) by a voluntary sector parent body. Local authorities are responsible for six advocacy services directly, with one being managed by an arms-length local authority organisation. Three further services report that other statutory/public bodies are responsible (two of which (Archway and EVA Services) are accountable to the NHS and one ( ASSIST) to both the Scottish Police Authority and Glasgow City Council). Four services stated 'other' [16] .


4.38 Of 67 respondents, 44 (66%) are governed by a board of trustees and five (7%) by a management committee. This is consistent with accountability arrangements in the voluntary sector. Eighteen organisations (27%) stated that they had 'other' governance arrangements: these include local authority committees (for example the public protection committee in one area); partnership arrangements where either a reference, steering or advisory group is responsible for governance; and NHS-related governance structures.

4.39 In the online responses, 26 services (41%, n=63) were in a partnership agreement, and 37 (59%) were not. There are many examples of partnership arrangements. The following examples illustrate the complexity of these:

The West Lothian Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team is owned by West Lothian Council but works in partnership with the police and courts as they are based in the same civic centre;

Fearless, which provides domestic abuse advocacy to certain marginalised groups, is governed by a partnership reference group comprising Sacro, Shakti Women's Aid, LGBTI Youth Scotland and Respect; and

ASSIST, based in Glasgow, is part of Community Safety Glasgow ( CSG), which is owned by both Glasgow City Council ( GCC) and the Scottish Police Authority ( SPA). CSG has a board of directors which includes the two main shareholders, GCC and SPA, but which has a majority of independent directors in order to preserve its independent nature.

How advocacy services interact with and relate to other facilities, organisations, systems

4.40 As illustrated in Table 12 below, all the advocacy services responding indicated that they have some form of routine interaction with other services.

4.41 The most common routine interaction is with the police. Only two of the 67 respondents did not mention the police in this context. Twenty (30%) routinely interact with a specialist domestic abuse court; 44 (66%) with other courts and 44 (66%) with MARACs. Forty-six (69%) interact with a law centre or specialist legal service.

4.42 These figures indicate that advocacy services are interacting with criminal justice agencies, which one would expect within a criminal justice response. Sixty-nine per cent of services indicated that they regularly engage with a law centre or specialist legal service. Interviewees subsequently talked about working with women who are engaged with the civil justice system over child contact, obtaining civil protective orders and immigration processes. A significant volume of the work of some advocacy services may be focused on civil processes although the precise extent to which this happens is not known from this research.

4.43 Services also indicated that they work with a wide range of other services beyond the criminal justice system in order to respond to the needs of service users. From the interviews, the range of organisations people talked about is broad. These include substance-use services; health and mental health services; housing; welfare benefits; and disparate voluntary sector services.

Table 12: Interaction with other local services

Table 12: Interaction with other local services

4.44 Several interviewees mentioned VIA (Victim Information and Advice) as being a useful link to the court system as the following quotes illustrate:

" VIA sit in the same office as the fiscal. We have a really good relationship with VIA. One of the issues we had is that most domestic abuse cases go to summary court. But we had an issue with trial dates being set for solemn procedure. Because of the link with the fiscal/ VIA, we now get notification of the solemn and summary trial dates direct from VIA." (local authority-based advocacy service)

"Plus we work closely with VIA and it puts our reports to the court. We speak regularly. They send us all the custodies every morning." (court-based service)

4.45 Not every area has a MARAC. Some interviewees said that this was a deficit and that it reduced the level of co-ordination of domestic abuse intervention in an area, as the following quote from a service manager highlights:

"We don't have a MARAC so the main role of the advocacy worker is to coordinate the multi-agency response to make sure women are safe." (local voluntary sector organisation)

4.46 Many expressed concern about the general lack of consistency across Scotland: the services available and the extent to which they interact. For some interviewees who try to meet demand in areas outwith the central belt this was about the difficulty of supplying such services at a distance; for others, it was about a sense of fairness in access to a similar level of service. There was also some criticism of the extent to which the criminal justice system understands the voluntary sector and interacts with other agencies. This is significant given that 67% of services in this survey are located within the voluntary sector.

"The procurators fiscal are not evident at the MARAC meetings…so the system doesn't always integrate well with what these services are trying to do." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"My experience, my own and my workers, is that there's an awful lot of dissatisfaction and a lot of that has happened since losing the sexual offences team at the fiscal's office. There's a missing layer that was useful, that women found useful. Local connection and massive experience has been removed. That adds to the distress. Some people handle it with more stoicism." (local voluntary sector organisation)

4.47 Several service managers said that they train other professionals, for example on risk assessment:

"We feel well linked-in generally, with a quarter of referrals coming to us from other agencies. We are also running a training course around risk assessment so that other professionals can do this and have a waiting list for the training. Sixty-four will be trained and we will pick up the rest at some point as well." (service co-located with police)

4.48 A few interviewees wanted more interaction with health services, for example through offering outreach advocacy in A&E departments. There is a growing sense of the role that this type of advocacy can play in health settings. Health visitors are required to undertake routine enquiry of domestic abuse as part of the Universal Health Pathway and to assess risk if abuse is disclosed. They are being trained to undertake risk assessment using the DASH-RIC tool.

4.49 One service manager said the advocacy service wanted to increase its networking with other local organisations but lacks the capacity to do so. Another highlighted the importance of the Violence Against Women Partnership as helpful in developing coordinated responses to all forms of violence against women and girls in local areas.

4.50 A few interviewees raised the importance of supervision and reporting arrangements so that learning from practice and experience contributes to wider institutional and strategic change. The importance of advocacy in ensuring women's experiences can influence institutional and strategic change in the criminal justice system was noted in the literature review as a key component of the advocacy role.

"…there is a role for advocates not just directly representing the interests of individual women but also adopting an 'institutional advocacy' approach … they have a role in tackling attitudes and culture within the institutions they come into contact with." (local authority-based service)

"There's not time to reflect or be proactive in developing things on the basis of what women generally tell us." (court-based service)

"…funding that enables coordination at a national level that would allow dedicated training for workers and opportunities to come together, share learning and improve strategy and policy by the evidence and experience that they are gathering." (national body)

Integration and isolation within local structures and processes

4.51 Integration can involve both physical co-location and also organisational integration, or close working even if there is not physical co-location. Most services are not physically co-located. The main co-located services are those that are most directly linked to the criminal justice system: ASSIST (co-located with police)); West Lothian DASAT (co-located in same building as both the court and the local authority and the police); the Domestic Abuse Advocacy Support Service, Scottish Borders (co-located in the local authority hub); MIA in Dundee (co-located with police); Domestic Abuse Advisory Service, East Lothian (co-located with the police); and MADART, North Ayrshire (co-located with the police). While stressing that they provide independent advocacy, these services reported significant benefits from such co-location in their relationships with the police and the wider criminal justice system.

4.52 Others have an integrated approach by virtue of working together through the MARAC. MARACs provide a structure for partnership working, information sharing and joint action. Advocacy workers working to a MARAC are the lynchpin for this: doing the linking up. Their role is crucial both when there is a MARAC and in the absence of one.

4.53 Some qualitative interviews raised the issue that sexual violence advocacy was less integrated within the coordinated community response because there is no equivalent to a MARAC in bringing different agencies together to support the victim and any children. Based on consultation and research with survivors of sexual violence, the RCS National Advocacy Project provides dedicated advocacy workers to support sexual violence victims at the point of reporting, pre- and post-court, in its words "helping them to navigate around and through the various organisations but with the continuity of the same person".

4.54 From the evidence provided during this research, most advocacy services work closely with other agencies. This is consistent with the advocacy role. The degree and type of interaction varies from area to area and organisation to organisation. The extent to which advocacy services are integrated with criminal justice processes also varies according to a wide range of factors including: whether or not there is a specialist court; whether or not they are recognised by, or have a meaningful role/status in, local criminal justice structures; whether there are agreed referral and information sharing protocols in place; whether or not there is a MARAC; whether or not there is a local coordinated response to violence against women; capacity issues and more.

4.55 One national stakeholder wanted to be clear about advocacy services that link formally with the procurator fiscal's service, and identified four services clearly meeting this definition: ASSIST in Glasgow and other areas in the west; the Edinburgh Domestic Abuse Court Service ( EDDACS); the Scottish Borders Domestic Abuse Advocacy Service ( DAAS) and the West Lothian Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team ( DASAT). The interviewee added that the more recent National Advocacy Project, which provides an advocate in rape crisis centres, will provide a similar service for those affected by sexual violence once it is fully established. Other domestic abuse advocates, such as those within some Women's Aid groups, do not necessarily have the same direct formal links to the criminal justice system. But Women's Aid advocates play an important role as advocates linked to the MARAC system, and may support women when there are issues of safety and risk connected to civil justice matters, such as child contact.

4.56 There appears to be no overarching process that sets up a formal protocol to establish referral and information sharing mechanisms between the police, the procurator fiscal and advocacy services; these are negotiated and agreed at local level. It is notable that the services identified by the national stakeholder above sit within, or closely alongside, statutory justice services. Three of them sit within a local authority or a public sector partnership, and this may play a part in the ease with which information sharing protocols are negotiated and agreed. The fourth sits within a Women's Aid group, but was set up by the local violence against women partnership at the same time as the specialist domestic abuse court was established.

Outcomes sought and monitoring data

4.57 Just over two thirds (46) of respondent advocacy services reported that they have set outcomes for their service. This means that just under one third (20) reported that they do not have set outcomes.

4.58 Twenty-seven advocacy services (41% of the 67 responding to this question) stated that they have not evaluated their service (see Table 13). Of the remaining 40 services, 11 have undertaken internal evaluation only; 13 have undertaken external evaluation only; and 16 have undertaken both internal and external evaluations.

Table 13: Services undertaking evaluation

Table 13: Services undertaking evaluation

4.59 We analysed the qualitative responses given in the survey about the outcomes used by those services which described them, together with the information from the qualitative interviews. This shows that, for most services, outcomes have been set in conjunction with funders and, for some services with multiple funders, this can mean they have different sets of outcomes to report on.

4.60 We note that, in responding to the survey question about outcomes, not all have identified outcomes in their answer: some have identified outputs or key performance indicators, which they gather as part of their monitoring information.

4.61 The following illustrates the types of outcomes which are shaping services:

for women: that they feel safer; have better access to services; that they are better informed about their choices/better understanding about the criminal justice system; that they receive improved support; that they report improved health and wellbeing; that they have improved housing options; and

for agencies: that there is improved co-ordination.

4.62 We asked respondents to tell us how they measure their progress against outcomes. The tools used include self-reporting through service-user feedback forms; the Empowerment Star/Outcomes Star (outcomes star is widely used as an evaluation tool); repeating the use of the DASH-RIC to note any difference; use of the Severity of Abuse Grid ( SOAG) [17] ; Core 10 (a health and wellbeing tool). Several of these tools measure individual change: it is not clear how services use them to assess the effectiveness or otherwise of their service.

4.63 A significant number of advocacy services are not evaluating their effectiveness, and not all services have set outcomes to guide their work. Evaluation can help to demonstrate impact and effectiveness, and help services learn from what works and what might be improved. However, while there is an expectation that voluntary sector services evaluate their work in order to report to funders, this is less likely to be a requirement in the statutory sector. The Voluntary Action Fund, under contract to the Scottish Government, has done considerable work with Evaluation Support Scotland to support VAWG-funded services to evaluate their services. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that advocacy services could be clearer about what they are aiming to achieve and how they will measure this.

Risk assessment tools

4.64 We asked survey respondents if they use a risk assessment tool. Of 65 responses, 52 respondents do and 13 do not. Most of the 13 who do not use a risk assessment tool are rape and sexual assault centres, which do not use formal risk assessment tools in providing advocacy.

4.65 Of the 52 services which use a risk assessment tool, some use more than one, as illustrated in Table 14 below. The most commonly used tool is the SafeLives DASH-RIC used by 41 services (79%). Three services use Police Scotland Domestic Abuse Questions.

Table 14: Risk assessment tools used

Table 14: Risk assessment tools used

4.66 Twelve services stated they use 'other' risk assessment tools. An analysis of these shows that most are using their own risk assessment tools although it is not possible to comment on them. One organisation (and some of those we interviewed) talked about using Core 10 which is a health-related self-evaluation tool. This suggests some confusion about what risk assessment means in the context of criminal justice advocacy.

4.67 Some national stakeholders commented on the variance and the place of risk assessment tools in the context of the overall advocacy approach:

"Getting a response within 24 hours and a risk assessment process which is not just based on whether lethality is present but should be based on an interaction that is lengthy enough and wise enough to get a sense of the narrative in that person's life not just a tick-box exercise. … Women are the best predictors of harm for themselves so how you manage the interaction and increase the space for interaction is essential." (national body)

"Systematic referral, risk assessment and safety planning. The DASH is not that appropriate for everyone, for example, not so appropriate for those coming through prostitution. The approach of just talking to women and seeing what emerges is not good enough as everyone is fallible however much experience they have had. Support and help to navigate through the system is always required…" (service co-located with police)

What models of advocacy services are available?

4.68 The research considered the models of advocacy services provided in responding to victims. It is clear from the above that a range of models operate which meet, to a greater or lesser extent, the definition used in this research.

4.69 The key variables appear to be around:

  • type of abuse;
  • location and governance; and
  • advocacy approach.

Type of abuse

Domestic abuse advocacy

4.70 We identified several models of domestic abuse advocacy:

1. Dedicated advocacy worker attached to the MARAC, for example Fife Women's Aid.

2. Advocacy workers employed by a specialist VAW voluntary organisation, formally linked to a specialist domestic abuse court and MARAC, for example EDDACS (which administers the MARAC in Edinburgh).

3. Local authority-run advocacy service sitting within a local authority hub, alongside police/social work/other council services; supporting victims through MARAC (for example DAAS, Scottish Borders) and specialist domestic abuse court (West Lothian DASAT, ASSIST).

4. Voluntary sector partnership (Women's Aid/Barnardo's) advocacy service run by voluntary sector partners co-located with police, for example MIA in Dundee.

5. Advocacy workers within Women's Aid or other specialist domestic abuse organisations. These may be supporting a local MARAC (but not 'contracted' to do it). They may provide support to a (non-specialist) court if needed, but may not have a formal link to COPFS or the court. They will also support and advocate for women to access wider services they need such as housing and health services, for example East Ayrshire Women's Aid, Grampian Women's Aid, Ross-shire Women's Aid, CEA.

6. Support staff from a specialist service, contracted to provide a specific advocacy service for male victims referred to the MARAC, for example Kingdom Abuse Survivors Project.

7. Advocacy worker employed by a non- VAW service, supporting people with additional vulnerabilities/needs, for example Barnardo's Connections.

8. Advocacy service run by a partnership, providing advocacy to marginalised groups, for example Fearless.

Sexual violence advocacy

4.71 We found two models of sexual violence advocacy from interviews:

  • RCS National Advocacy Project - advocacy worker based within a rape crisis centre, taking self-referrals and police referrals, supporting women to report to police, and through the pre- and post-court process.
  • Archway - support or advocacy (interviewee refers to 'support workers') which takes referrals from the police and some self-referrals; conducts forensic examination; and supports victims all through the process.

4.72 Several interviewees said that it would be helpful to have advocacy workers based in A&E departments.

Location and governance

4.73 Where the advocacy service is located and how it is governed affects how it operates. In particular, how closely linked the service is in a formal sense to the local authority, the police and the court systems affects how well it can work with the criminal justice system.

Advocacy approach

4.74 Interviewees commented on the different models of advocacy and their underlying approaches. Some essential elements which would apply to any model included:

  • understanding VAWG and the national strategy;
  • continuity and consistency;
  • keeping the victim at the centre; and
  • empowerment.

4.75 The following quotes illustrate these points:

"We need different models for different types of violence against women and girls. But they need to be feminist/asset-based/person at the centre/child friendly." (national body)

"We are still learning a lot about how the national project is working and how it should be re-shaped to help meet needs. However, dedicated workers resourced to support the victim from the initial advice and communication, support in court and support post court linking in to additional services that are required to provide the advocacy and helping them to navigate around and through the various organisation but with the continuity of the same person." (national body)

"Advocacy models that are underpinned by:

  • understanding trauma and its impact;
  • the survivor at the centre, enabling her to make decisions;
  • rights-based models and ability to make choices;
  • services have to be flexible for each woman and meet her needs." (specialist advocacy service provider)

"A set of minimum standards so it doesn't matter where you are in the country, you get the same service." (national body)

4.76 There was discussion about the merits of different approaches to advocacy applied by different organisations. For example, Women's Aid groups take a needs-led approach which differs from a wholly or mainly risk-based approach. Their view would be that a predominantly risk-based approach could mean that those formally assessed as at low risk might not receive a great deal of support. This is a concern given the importance of early intervention and also, in the context of domestic abuse, the dynamics of coercive control. For those in the criminal justice system, the risk-based approach makes sense and has huge significance.

4.77 One interviewee commented:

"A lot of people say 'we risk assess' but I think having a formal empirical risk tool is really important. And it's not to say that if people aren't high risk, that you don't support them, and it's not important. Of course it is. But I think if you have a recognised tool that enables you to speak with other agencies who also recognise that tool, and then you can use that tool as a vehicle to refer to MARAC/ MATAC process that's a very powerful thing." (national body)

4.78 There was some discussion of the 'silo-ing' of different models and forms of abuse. This tended to be in the context of funding and concerns about equity and access to services. Comments included:

"We need to stop having all the separate advocacy services … for rape/domestic abuse/sexual assault. We need a holistic approach to victims as they don't come in silo crimes. And it needs a consistent model across Scotland." (national body)

"The silo-ing of women at the point of crisis is not helpful. Example of Scottish Borders where there are two advocates in one service and one advocate in another service all coming from the same funding stream but going to different specialist gender-based violence services although there is an overlap of service users and there are demand/capacity issues." (national body)

4.79 This is an aspect which could benefit from further study. A literature review commissioned by Rape Crisis Scotland found that there is scope for collaboration rather than amalgamation, particularly when a survivor has experienced 'multiple victimisation' so that survivors receive effective support from whichever service they approach [18] .

Developing the models

4.80 National stakeholders commented on how models might develop further. These focused on:

  • secure funding based on a clear rationale;
  • minimum standards, clear principles and outcomes;
  • consistency across Scotland to allow equal access to services with allowance for variation according to, for example, rural/urban populations.

The following are two quotes from interviewees about what they would like to see:

"Ownership, accountability, governance, standards, reviews, performance framework, outputs and outcomes, reduce number of victims." (national body)

"Need a national conversation about what the function of advocacy services is and how they engage with NHS… It should be about 'is there any transformative potential' in this [advocacy] model to alter the landscape of policy and service responses to violence against women and girls." (national body)

Gaps and areas for improvement

4.81 The main gaps in service provision identified through the survey and the qualitative interviews relate to:

  • geographical gaps;
  • gaps in types of service available;
  • gaps in services for people with specific vulnerabilities;
  • gaps in service provision linked to the justice process.

Geographical gaps

4.82 The most frequently mentioned geographical gap relates to the divide between what is available in rural areas compared to urban areas. Issues raised related to the difficulty of offering services in some of the harder-to-reach areas; the problems of being a lone worker covering a large area; the fact that women may have to travel for forensic examination; and the problems for victims in smaller communities where confidentiality may be difficult as 'everyone is known'. As two interviewees commented:

"Confidentiality. In small communities, it can be very difficult - it happens quite often that you find that a survivor might be connected in some way to the statutory agencies - either through family or work and that can cause problems." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"Fear of the unknown and unfortunately some of that is geographical. Women need to be able to see round where it will take place and that is sometimes not possible - because of time, cost etc, and it disadvantages women in rural areas." (local voluntary sector organisation)

4.83 The overall gap identified by many is the lack of consistency in service provision across Scotland. The number of trained IDAAs in each area also varies. Not every area has a MARAC, as illustrated in the following comment:

"We have a really good start on MARACs but not a consistent national model. Still have areas that are taking a fixed number of clients, screening out 'lower risk' victims because that is what they have capacity for. Or they are not reviewing consistently. The court process can open up risk … and MARAC can help to manage that but not everyone is getting access to that process." (service co-located with police)

4.84 As discussed above, the online survey indicated that just over a fifth of advocacy services are running a waiting list, and three quarters are experiencing demand which outstrips their capacity.

4.85 While the RCS National Advocacy Project has brought sexual violence advocacy to most areas, one interviewee queried the wisdom of having one advocate in each rape crisis centre when the population sizes are so varied: while it is good geographical coverage, the level of demand in each area is inevitably very different. Others thought that a minimum of one sexual violence advocate in each area was a reasonable allocation of the funding which was made available.

4.86 A few interviewees said that the sort of framework provided by MARACs in local areas in coordinating responses is less available to sexual violence advocacy workers, who may be more isolated within the community response.

4.87 Linked to lack of consistency country-wide is the need for more awareness raising about services available. Several of the service managers we spoke to indicated that they are trying to do more to raise awareness about the service they offer through active outreach. Increasing awareness of what available services provide is seen as essential.

Gaps in the types of service available

4.88 Interviewees generally commented that, while advocacy services linked to domestic abuse are fairly well established (but not perfect) and while the National Advocacy Project is seeing an important increase in the advocacy available for those who have experienced rape/sexual assault, there is much less available for victims of human trafficking and prostitution. Other crimes such as stalking and harassment were identified by some as requiring more advocacy support.

4.89 Some of the gaps were not about advocacy as such but about some of the processes that run alongside it. One interviewee spoke about the overlap between criminal and civil law and of the difficulty of finding solicitors in the local area who understand gender-based violence. Another said that, in Glasgow, access to solicitors has been easier through, for example the Legal Services Agency, which has solicitors with specialist expertise. The extended Scottish Women's Rights Centre may help to bring more specialist solicitors to other areas in Scotland. As two interviewees commented:

"We struggle with finding high-quality solicitors here, there is no energy in their challenge very often. And would be good to see more challenge on legal grounds." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"Access to lawyers, especially with reference to child contact. But also, family law more broadly." (local authority-based service)

Gaps in services for specific target groups

Children and young people

4.90 The most frequently mentioned gap in advocacy services from those we interviewed was for children and young people. In some instances, this referred to general support for children and young people in households affected by domestic abuse. Others discussed the need for advocacy services for children and young people in their own right. These might be needed in different situations:

  • to help provide a voice/support for children and young people, for example to present the child's voice to parents, teachers, hearings or others, or when parents are pursuing a court process; and
  • to provide direct advocacy services for children and young people who are being abused in the home; within their own intimate partner relationships; or in other settings.

4.91 The following excerpts from interviews highlight the issues:

"Another gap, children still having to be in court and where we want to move with that. In criminal court particularly, we have special measures, we can use a remote site, screens, etc. But ideally children would give their evidence immediately after the incident, outwith a court and never be contacted again." (service co-located with police)

"Children's voices: where are they being heard in the system? The children's hearing system … we need to have children's views heard in confidence not in front of their parents." (service co-located with police)

"There could be more specialised support for young victims. Last key performance indicators [list showed] 117 young victims who had experienced abuse by partners were going through [our] service. Needs a specific service to meet their needs." (service co-located with police)

4.92 While there are examples of advocacy specific to children and young people, for example the West Lothian DASAT has a child contact officer to help put the child's view in court, CEA in Falkirk has a children's advocacy worker as does MIA in Dundee, and some Women's Aid groups who responded to the survey stated they have children's support workers [19] , there is scope for further research in order to understand this area of advocacy more comprehensively linked to a need for more advocacy services.

Black and minority ethnic women

4.93 Another gap frequently mentioned by interviewees and during the earlier mapping stage by those we spoke to, relates to black and minority ethnic women. While 24 of the 67 survey respondents stated they offer advocacy services to black and minority ethnic women, interviewees raised many different issues.

4.94 One issue was the difficulty in finding appropriate interpreting, preventing services from responding as quickly as they would like. As one respondent commented:

"There is also a bit of a challenge here in relation to the Polish community: we managed to get some money for translation/interpretation but we normally try to see people within 24-48 hours and this is harder to keep to for Polish, and other east European people in terms of getting the interpreting organised etc." (service co-located with police)

4.95 From the online survey, of 65 responses, 54 (83%) said they could and 11 (17%) said they could not provide interpreting services. The issue may be about finding 'appropriate' interpreters who are not biased against the victim. It may be about the range of languages required. Some women may want an interpreter who is not from the same community, which can add to the difficulty of finding an appropriate interpreter. It may be hard for services to find interpreters who understand the dynamics of abuse:

"… there is a gap in interpreting services, in terms of their understanding of abuse and dynamics of abuse." (service co-located with police)

4.96 Some commented that 'older' communities from Pakistan and the Indian sub-continent are better served than 'newer' arrivals such as those from parts of Africa.

4.97 Interviewees commented on the gap in advocacy for asylum seekers and refugees which they think is compounded by a lack of expertise on immigration issues meaning that a service may not know how to help them. Also, many services do not know how to respond as they may be working with women who have no recourse to public funds. The complexity can be daunting, because of the extreme circumstances that many such families have experienced, as one interviewee stated it:

"There are very high levels of abuse in these women's lives [given the sometimes violent experiences which they and their partners have fled from] but it's not something that can be rectified [solely] by the criminal justice system." (local voluntary sector organisation)


4.98 Other gaps were identified for specific groups including women with learning disabilities and LGBTI people. A few interviewees thought that there is a gap in advocacy services specifically for men. The problem of low referrals from certain groups in more rural areas is highlighted in the comment below:

"We get few referrals for LGBTI people and there are no specialist agencies working in the area so nowhere for people to go. We've been working with LGBT Youth Scotland, looking at possibilities." (local voluntary sector organisation)

Gaps in the provision of services linked to justice process

4.99 ASSIST in Glasgow discussed gaps relating to the justice process. These include the lack of services for those whose cases do not proceed to court or 'no crimes' where there is insufficient evidence to proceed.

4.100 It also raised the difficulties of managing risk and safety post-conviction, especially in relation to shorter custodial sentences. Although the Victim Notification Scheme has been extended to all victims, if the sentence is under 18 months the victim has to write to the Scottish Prison Service and ask to be informed of any release, including a Home Detention Curfew. Unless the victim is in touch with an IDAA service, she may not know that the offender is coming out. The prisons are not routinely contacting IDAA services: they may ask criminal justice social work for a report. The social worker may or may not contact the IDAA. There are missed opportunities to manage risk and safety planning post-conviction.

Barriers and consistency

4.101 The lack of consistency of service provision has been identified as a gap. While some of the gaps within advocacy services identified above contribute to this lack of consistency, there are other broader barriers to achieving greater consistency, which are not directly connected to advocacy services themselves. These include barriers within the criminal justice system; barriers linked to funding uncertainties; and others relating to awareness and training.

Barriers within the criminal justice system

4.102 By far the most common barriers spoken about during the qualitative interviews with service managers and national stakeholders relate to the criminal justice system itself. These included the length of time to trial [20] , the trial process itself, and the variation in sentencing. The following comments illustrate some of the views expressed:

"The challenges are with the criminal justice system itself: the length of time it takes and very often the perpetrator gets off. It is seen as unfair." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"Criminal justice is variable at times. Works for some but for others they have difficulty in getting information about their case e.g. where it is in the process, what's happening next. The trial is not good for victims, doesn't work to their advantage. Would like to see more direction from the judge to the jury about how people might be in court, e.g. they might not appear traumatised. The adversarial system is awful for victims as is the not proven verdict." (health-based service)

4.103 Several interviewees raised the lack of links between criminal and civil justice, and the lack of recognition of 'risk' in civil processes. This can be a particular issue in situations where an abusive partner is pursuing a child contact case:

"Criminal justice process seems to have overtaken the civil process and the link is not there. People are navigating both at same time - in one [the criminal court] they will get special measures etc and in the other they will have to sit across from the abuser in court for a week." (service co-located with police)

4.104 Several interviewees were concerned with the variation in the approach taken by sheriffs and commented on the need for consistency and training, including on trauma and its effects. The following quotes come from two different sources:

"The main issue is around the views and practice of sheriffs: they want to be seen as independent [21] so refuse to be trained and take a blanket approach. Attitudinal issue but the institution does not correct it. [Cited example of perpetrator being vexatious, working the system, using children to control mother. Recognised as such by professionals (social work, housing) but not being taken into account by sheriff.] Can see a difference with Glasgow court where the sheriffs 'know the script' and can see perpetrator's behaviour for what it is." (local authority-based service)

"Sentencing … still a huge variation. There are still sheriffs who don't believe special bail conditions are appropriate. Best options will be in the domestic abuse court but will see areas where one particular sheriff doesn't believe in it at all. We are still seeing fines, at the start of the domestic abuse court we never saw fines, they were considered an inappropriate disposal." (local authority-based service)

4.105 A few interviewees referred to a low rate of convictions in their area and thought that this did not encourage women to come forward.

"If you are talking primarily about the justice system - it's the disposals, that's what doesn't fit. It's not a lack of willingness - some of the fiscals are absolutely brilliant and I absolutely have the highest regard for them, they want to do the best job they can. Where we continually get let down is the guy gets let out, there's an apparent insufficient evidence - which means she gave her statement, it goes forward but he is out the next day and she is thinking I will never report this again in my life. Where in the system is it falling down? Is it the fiscal thinking there's enough but the sheriff not? Is it the police thinking there isn't enough evidence? Or are the police reporting it and the fiscal not proceeding with it? In [this area], 51% of domestic abuse incidents lead to conviction - what is happening to the other 49%?" (local authority-based service)

Practical barriers

4.106 A few interviewees noted practical barriers linked to the court arrangements. These related to the buildings and the potential for intimidation, and safety concerns.

"Court premises not great for access and safety in Inverness, though a new justice centre is being developed, and Tain is the same." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"Also in the non-specialist courts the victim is having to use same entrance and seating as perpetrator's family." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"There is a huge difference between the way these courts make arrangements. For example, at the High Court there are separate rooms for victims/witnesses. At the sheriff court, you can ask for a separate room but it's at the back and you then can't get out easily for a cigarette and cup of tea. There is potential for real intimidation." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"System could be more attuned to needs of victim [example given where woman sent out into the street with accused because court was closing over lunch time]." (health-managed service)


4.107 Another key barrier is funding, which is generally precarious, with most services not knowing how they will be funded beyond the next 12 to 24 months, and services reporting that they can only deal with the highest-risk victims.

"There is not enough of a resource and some people still don't know where to go for help. When an incident is reported, the police do the DAQ, and if high risk, then it is automatically referred to [us]. But medium risk is the concern … as we often find they are in fact high-risk as they may not have told the police everything." (service co-located with police)

"Major difficulty is year-to-year funding - currently December, and no idea what's happening post March. At capacity with staff we have, makes it difficult for planning and security, can affect ability to hang on to staff." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"Threat of discontinued funding. Year-on-year funding, and budget has been standstill for several years, so really a cut." (local voluntary sector organisation)

"Staffing levels and capacity… Underfunded and shortage of doctors, need for bigger premises. We will see everyone but stretched at times. In the past, we would support 'with no end' but now putting on a limit and seeing people for 12 weeks." (health-based service)

"In terms of what we need - we don't have a health worker, think that's a gap. Would be good for giving another perspective. We are missing a training worker to provide to local workers. I would love to have access to a lawyer." (local authority-based service)

Awareness and training

4.108 Some interviewees identified the barrier of lack of understanding more generally in society, and think that more needs to be done to raise awareness of domestic and other forms of abuse and their impact.

"Needs to be better understanding of complexities of domestic abuse, more training needed about the impact that it has on women, how traumatised and vulnerable they can be. Part of a bigger societal problem e.g. putting blame on woman for not leaving him/mixed messages, not recognising issues she faces." (local voluntary sector organisation)

4.109 Several interviewees commented on the need for training for other professional workers, but noted that there has been some development within health:

"Training is a huge gap. If you don't train the frontline workers so they know what domestic abuse is, how can they respond appropriately … one-off training doesn't work, has to be on-going." (local authority-based service)

"There's been a programme of training in the health service. And loads of other areas have bought in the risk identification training. Getting much better but still a way to go. Ideally, criminal justice social workers could be doing routine enquiry." (service co-located with police)

4.110 Given the barriers raised within the criminal justice system, some interviewees thought that training for procurators fiscal and sheriffs is required:

"And training for all procurators fiscal and sheriffs as mandatory. The cross-examination of women can be absolutely atrocious … whether she has taken drugs, what she's wearing, whether she's had a drink etc. Really appalling." (local voluntary sector organisation)

4.111 The final chapter sets out our conclusions and recommendations from this research.