Support for women to expand after @scotgov boost for anti-violence fund

Dundee and Highlands to see expansion of support for victims of gender-based violence 

THE Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC) will be expanded after the secretary for justice Michael Matheson confirmed an extra £665,000 will be granted over the next two years.

SWRC is a collaborative project between Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS), the University of Strathclyde and the Legal Services Agency (LSA), which provides advice and support for victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

The new funding will allow the SWRC to increase its legal team to provide direct legal support in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and, for the first time, Dundee and the Highlands.

“There is a clear need for free & specialist legal advice to be provided to women following rape or abuse.” Sally Brindley

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of SWA and a member of the SWRC’s Advisory Group, said: “Scottish Women’s Aid is absolutely delighted that the Scottish Government is increasing funding to Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC).

“SWRC is an innovative, thinking-out-of-the-box response to the problem of women’s lack of access to competent and affordable legal services when they experience domestic and or sexual violence.

“Clearly this expansion out of the central belt allows us to look at the model in new settings, a very welcome development that will allow us to design services fit for women across Scotland.

“Congratulations are in order for the staff team, who have done such a good job in the first phase, and to Rape Crisis Scotland and LSA, who have provided so much insight and support to the Centre.”

Additionally, the SWRC will employ a new full-time advocacy support worker, focusing on the needs of the women who use the service, and the centre’s helpline will increase its hours to ensure that women have more options available to them to seek legal information and advice on any aspect of gender-based violence.

The announcement also follows the recent pledge by the Scottish Government, welcomed by campaigners, to pass a new domestic abuse bill which will for the first time ensure “coercive and repeated abusive behaviour” will be punishable by law.

“Clearly this expansion out of the central belt allows us to look at the model in new settings, a very welcome development that will allow us to design services fit for women across Scotland.” Dr Marsha Scott

Rape Crisis Scotland spokeswoman Sandy Brindley said: “This announcement will mean a significant improvement in the legal advice and protection offered to women across Scotland. There is a clear need for free and specialist legal advice to be provided to women following rape or abuse. This funding will help the Scottish Women's Rights Centre to promote and protect women's human rights.”

Recently charities had expressed concern over the direction of support for women who suffer violence as a result of austerity measures from the UK Government which has seen pressure on women's’ retreats and women bearing 86 per cent of cuts to public services. 

In Scotland, the latest crime statistics released last month showed that while crime across the board was going down, sexual violence was on the rise with a 53 per cent jump since 2006, the highest on record since 1974.

Kate Laverty of the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic said: “The Law Clinic at Strathclyde is delighted to be part of the development of the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre. Women all over Scotland clearly need this service and our students are eager to help.

“Not only are they keen to hone their legal skills but they want to be part of changing things for the better for those experiencing gender-based violence. Their involvement at this early stage in their studies helps to spread knowledge and skills in this specialist area of law and will have a huge influence in their future careers in law.”

Picture courtesy of Adobe

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