By Bill Heaney
Scottish Women’s Aid revealed this week that that victims of domestic violence face being put on waiting lists of up to six months before they can access services.
Labour’s Pauline McNeill MSP asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for her reaction to this and some remarkable new statistics in relation to domestic abuse.
Ms Sturgeon told the Holyrood parliament: “Far too many people still experience domestic abuse, and they should not have to wait to receive support. As a Government, we are looking at the issue. “
She said Christina McKelvie, the Minister for Older People and Equalities, had visited Dundee Women’s Aid, where she heard about the impact of domestic abuse and the role of front-line services in aiding women and children’s recovery.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Last month, we opened our new £13 million project delivering equally safe fund for applications. The fund specifically supports organisations that are involved in that work.
“In addition, alongside the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, we are reviewing how the services will be funded in future, because we all want those who are experiencing the pernicious harm of domestic abuse to have access to the support that they need, when they need it.”
Pauline McNeill said: “The First Minister will be aware that there were 60,000 incidents of domestic abuse last year, which is an increase of 2 per cent.
“Scottish Women’s Aid supports more than 1,000 women and children across the country on any given day. The vast majority of Women’s Aid groups operate waiting list of up to six months, and half of those services are forced to operate a waiting list for refuge spaces. I know that the First Minister is only too aware that we are talking about women and children who are fleeing from their homes in order to be safe.
“I am pleased that the First Minister has said that there will be a review of the funding. In this Parliament, Labour and the Scottish National Party have a good record on dealing with domestic violence issues.”
In West Dunbartonshire, Cllr Caroline McAllister recently gave Labour a hard time on the domestic violence, claiming – contrary to the First Minister’s version – that Labour’s record on this was poor to non existent.
The First Minister and, of course, Christina McKelvie, the Minister for Older People and Equalities, are willing to consider setting up an emergency fund as part of the review, to help eliminate waiting times and focus on refuge services in order to help women fleeing violence?
Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am always happy to consider suggestions that are made, although we have, of course, just finalised the budget for next year. As I said, we recently opened the delivering equally safe fund for applications. That £13 million will be available to organisations that tackle violence against women and girls. However, we will continue to consider such suggestions on an on-going basis.
“I pay heartfelt tribute to the work of Women’s Aid and other organisations in this field. I want to make sure that their services are available to women who need them when they need them. Since 2015, we have invested more than £80 million in work to tackle violence against women and girls. In the financial year that is about to end, our equally safe fund has already allocated around £4.7 million to local Women’s Aid organisations across Scotland. That is evidence of our strong commitment. In fairness, Pauline McNeill recognised that.
“I absolutely recognise that there is more work to be done here. I am personally very committed to making sure that further progress is made on the issue, and I am more than happy to take Pauline McNeill’s suggestion away for consideration.”