Published 21 July 2022
Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis services in West Dunbartonshire have praised the Council’s five year funding pledge that allows them to develop their support for women and children in crisis.
Councillors unanimously approved proposals to maintain funding for the duration of the current administration’s term – thereby providing the longest ever sustained cash guarantee for women’s lifeline services across the area, which has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse in Scotland.
Among those vital services to benefit is Dumbarton District Women’s Aid (DDWA), whose residential facility in Balloch provides emergency accommodation, practical advice and emotional support for women and their children escaping an abusive home environment. The DDWA group and Clydebank Women’s Aid will each receive £167,000 annually until March 2027.
This funding is to provide support to women who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse living in temporary accommodation or living in their own homes, as well as supporting women moving to new homes to sustain their tenancies.
Rape Crisis, which offers outreach support in West Dunbartonshire to women and girls aged 13 and over who have experienced sexual violence, will receive a total of £43,000 annually from HSCP core funding and additional Council payments.
On Tuesday, Councillor Michelle McGinty, chair of West Dunbartonshire HSCP, and Housing Convener Councillor Craig Edward visited DDWA’s 10-flat facility in Balloch to meet with manager Liz Mooney and colleagues Jane Graham and Carmel Gentles to discuss the positive difference that their service makes to the lives of women across the area.
Councillor McGinty said: “We know specifically that West Dunbartonshire has a serious problem with domestic abuse.
“During the Covid pandemic the numbers rose – at this facility alone referrals went up by 138 percent during the first six months of lockdown – and the problem is not going to just go away now that life is largely back to normal. Over the next few years it’s going to require a lot of multi-agency input and support for vital services like Dumbarton District Women’s Aid, Clydebank Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis.
“And it’s important to us as a Council that they know we are behind them every step of journey ahead over these next five years.”
The Council’s Housing department has played a key role in tackling the issue, launching the No Home For Domestic Abuse initiative in 2018 to become the first social landlord in Scotland to introduce a zero tolerance policy on abuse within its properties.
In addition to providing victims of abuse immediate access to practical help and specialist legal assistance, perpetrators will be legally removed and prevented from returning to ensure victims can remain at home. The Council also takes a tough stance on tenants found guilty of committing domestic abuse by offering them only short-term tenancies and ensuring the property is at a distance from the victim.
Housing staff partner with Police, Courts and Criminal Justice teams to co-ordinate swift action against the most serious offenders.
Councillor Craig Edward, Housing Convener for West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “This long-term extension of funding is a significant policy commitment agreed by all Councillors who recognise these services are vital when domestic violence is still unacceptably high.
“The continued support of these services is really important and ties in with the Council’s No Home For Domestic Abuse agenda.
“It’s one thing having policies in place but we are demonstrating meaningful action. My understanding is that we are the only council in Scotland to secure funding for the full five year term, and this will be welcomed not only by Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis but also by the wider community within West Dunbartonshire.”
Liz Mooney, co-manager of Dumbarton District Women’s Aid said: “This is the longest guaranteed funding we have had, and that security means we can now start to look where else we can develop our service.
“We are grateful to the Council for their commitment to services that support women, children and young people in crisis.”
Anyone who has experienced domestic abuse or sexual violence can find help at https://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/emergencies/domestic-abuse/help-for-women/