Domestic abuse victims 'forced on to waiting lists for charity help'

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WomanImage source, Laura Dodsworth

Victims of domestic abuse who contact Scottish Women's Aid (SWA) for help face being put on waiting lists of up to six months, the charity has said.

SWA figures show it supports more than 1,000 women and children across the country on any given day.

The group is now urging the Scottish government and councils to provide increased funding to make sure victims are helped more quickly.

The government said it was committed to tackling all forms of domestic abuse.

SWA published a report on its work to mark International Women's Day.

Refuge spaces

It said the vast majority (84%) of Women's Aid groups have to operate waiting lists of up to six months for at least one of their services.

More than half of its services were forced to operate a waiting list for refuge spaces in 2018-19.

On one day in 2019, SWA was unable to provide accommodation for 58% of the women and 38% of the children and young people seeking refuge, the report said.

Also on a single day last year, 1,235 women, children and young people contacted a Women's Aid service - with 101 of them seeking help for the first time.

The charity, which has 38 local groups, said funding for specialist services was "insufficient due to funding cuts, freezes, and the nature of short-term, precarious funding".

'Vital support'

Scottish government statistics show that in 2018-19, there were 60,641 incidents of domestic abuse recorded by Police Scotland.

But the SWA report stresses that "most domestic abuse is not reported to the police".

It said 79% of its services have either received no increase in funding or have seen funding cut - on average by 10%.

The report highlights a "stark increase in the waiting time for women and children to access a refuge".

It added: "This means that women and children forced to leave their home because of domestic abuse are left without a safe place to go."

The charity's Ash Kuloo said: "It is women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse who bear the brunt of cuts to funding.

"It is their safety and survival that lies behind these statistics and every increased waiting list means another person not getting the vital support they need, at the time they need it."

She said Women's Aid services were "continuously being asked to do much more, with much less".

'Significant funding'

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We are absolutely committed to tackling all forms of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, and ensuring that victims receive the support they need.

"We are working with Cosla and key partners to implement our Equally Safe strategy across Scotland.

"We have invested significant levels of funding into front-line services, as well as working closely with statutory agencies to improve their response to victims and survivors."

Cosla, which represents local authorities, said while the Scottish government had made a significant investment, the "underinvestment" in councils had impacted its work in this area.

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