Extra £4.25m made available to help victims of domestic abuse

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Organisations helping women who have suffered domestic abuse are to get extra cash to help with the increase in demand for services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Equalities minister Christina McKelvie announced an additional £4.25 million of funding is being made available to groups helping women and children who are experiencing or at risk of violence and domestic abuse.

The money will allow such organisations to take on more staff and operate centres and helplines over longer hours, as well as helping with improvements to IT and digital services.

Marsha Scott, the chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “This injection of financial support will provide some much-needed stability for groups against a back drop of precarious, patchwork local funding.

“As lockdown and other measures ease, our local groups are anticipating even more demand for their specialist services as survivors begin to have more opportunities to seek support.

“Additionally, if faced with a second wave of the virus, this funding will strengthen the responses of groups and allow them to build on the progress they have made in delivering services remotely.”

She said local Women’s Aid groups have “shown extraordinary resilience and creativity in rapidly redesigning their services to continue supporting those experiencing domestic abuse throughout the pandemic”.

Ms Scott added: “The challenges they’ve faced have been huge as Covid-19 has given abusers more tools to control and harm women and children.”

Her comments came as a Scottish Government report noted some victims of domestic abuse are “experiencing significant mental ill health due to the impact of Covid-19”.

It said victims have cited the combined impact of isolation, a lack of safe childcare options, managing the threat of domestic abuse and the risk of the virus as having had a “severe impact on their mental health and resilience”.

The report said “many organisations observed significant increases in crisis work with victims, with many people experiencing suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety, increasing substance misuse as a coping mechanism, and/or increased levels of fear, both of the perpetrator and the virus”.

It said during the initial period of lockdown there were “consistent reports that perpetrators’ alcohol use had escalated, exacerbating the frequency and severity of abuse”.

Ms McKelvie said: “The greater risks to women and children of domestic abuse, with referrals to frontline services increasing during the pandemic, is a major concern.

“It is atrocious that this is the case but we are focused on ensuring that frontline services can meet the increased demand for support.”

She added: “This extra funding will help to ensure these vital services are still able to provide support to people across the country, and the scale and innovation of these projects will provide a lifeline to many women and families.

“Any kind of violence is unacceptable and the safety and wellbeing needs of women and children need to be protected – that is even more important during a pandemic.”

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