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News | Our full response to the Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of VAWG Services

Our full response to the Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of VAWG Services

Rape Crisis Scotland and 16 member Rape Crisis Centres across Scotland have published a formal response to the Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Services in Scotland.

The strategic review, published in June of this year, made several welcome recommendations for the funding of VAWG services. These include implementing a legal right to access of VAWG services, which would mean that such services are no longer dependent on short-term, precarious funding. However, we have serious concerns over the review’s potential unintended negative consequences for Rape Crisis Centres in Scotland.

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive, Rape Crisis Scotland said: “We wholeheartedly agree with the review’s recommendation for long term guaranteed funding to be available to Rape Crisis services. We do however have real concerns about how the review recommends this funding be delivered. Local authorities across Scotland are under real financial strain. It is difficult to envision Rape Crisis Centres being properly funded for the long term by individual local authorities. This could also mean that provision of lifesaving support services is very inconsistent across Scotland. When survivors reach out for support, they need to receive it, no matter where in Scotland they live.

“We are also very worried by the review’s recommendation for there to be a single VAWG helpline. Our helpline provides highly specialist sexual violence support for anyone aged 13+. Survivors tell us how much they value accessing a specialist service. This specialism must be protected.

“We hope our concerns, and those of 16 of our member centres, will be heard. The only way to protect Rape Crisis services is to ring fence sufficient funding for them.”

Jan Swan, CEO, Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre said: "It’s great that this review has identified a number of positive developments that could ensure that high quality services are adequately funded and available where survivors of sexual violence need them. But we need to see a lot of clarification around many challenging issues, and potential unintended consequences, that could arise from some of the recommendations made.”

The review recommends introducing a commissioning model for Rape Crisis services for the first time. This would mean that local authorities would commission providers of Rape Crisis support to meet their statutory obligation to provide such services. We are very concerned that such a model would lead to further funding strains for Rape Crisis Centres. Many charitable funders, which Rape Crisis Centres currently rely on, do not provide funding where there is a statutory duty for the service to be provided. For one of our centres, this would mean losing 30% of their current funding. Unless significant additional funding was made available from national or local government, Rape Crisis Centres would have less funding under the proposed new arrangements and would be forced to cut services even further.

Local authorities are already under very high financial pressures which vary from area to area. Before the introduction of national funding for Rape Crisis, levels of funding varied hugely across Scotland. The Rape Crisis Centre in Aberdeen only received £5,000 per annum from the local authority for example. We are deeply concerned that a move away from national funding could lead to a postcode lottery of the level of provision of services across the country. This simply isn’t good enough for survivors.

Our national helpline offers free, confidential support to anyone aged 13+ who has been affected by sexual violence. Survivors have told us that the support they received from the helpline has been truly lifesaving. The funding review recommends a move to a single VAWG helpline which would merge our sexual violence helpline with Scotland’s domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline. Removing access to a highly specialist helpline for sexual violence would be a damaging move. It is our experience that due to the high levels of stigma around sexual violence. We are very worried that merging these helplines would further silence survivors of rape and sexual violence. It would also leave male survivors of sexual violence in Scotland with no specialist support line. This isn’t acceptable.

Although there are significant capacity issues within Rape Crisis services across Scotland, today many, many more survivors of sexual violence have access to the lifesaving support that Rape Crisis provides, thanks in large part to protected national funding. We have grave concerns about the potential for a move to localised funding under a commissioning model to worsen the situation for sexual violence survivors in Scotland. The only way to protect Rape Crisis services is by ring fencing funding specifically for these services.

Our recommendations for the future funding of Rape Crisis services in Scotland are:

• Ring fence funding for Rape Crisis Centres and don’t impose a commissioning model upon them;

• Continue to fund national projects such as the National Advocacy Project and the Prevention Programme, while allowing for additional resources to be allocated locally where needed or appropriate;

• Continue to fund the Rape Crisis Scotland National Helpline for anyone affected by sexual violence, and enhance the funding to enable an expansion of opening hours;

• Extend emergency waiting list funding beyond March 2024 and save 28 specialist Rape Crisis posts across Scotland;

• Urgently clarify the position in relation to introducing a statutory duty to provide services and the ability of these services to apply for charitable funding

Read the full response here.

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