Will You Commit? Scottish Parliament Elections 2016

Will You Commit? Scottish Parliament Elections 2016

The Scottish Parliament elections will take place in May 2016. We need politicians and political parties to commit to putting the needs of women and children experiencing domestic abuse at the very top of the political agenda.

These elections are crucial: The Scottish Parliament will be using new devolved powers in a context where women and children’s safety and prosperity have rarely been so challenged.

We are calling on all political parties to commit to improvements around domestic abuse in four key areas over the lifetime of the next Parliament.

Scottish Women’s Aid have spent the last 40 years campaigning for better responses to domestic abuse. Now we are asking each candidate standing as an MSP this May:

Will you commit to securing access to justice, a safe home and safe contact for women and children?

Will you commit to sustainable long-term funding for domestic abuse services?

On any given day in Scotland, Women’s Aid and other domestic abuse services support more than 1000 women and children experiencing domestic abuse. Our members report increases in demand for their services at the same time that their funding  is reduced. Our research shows that  81% of Women’s Aid groups in Scotland received standstill or reduced funding from their local authority. Nearly a quarter of groups had to reduce levels of support and and put more children and women on longer waiting lists.
Uncertainties around funding are exacerbated by the short term nature of the current funding arrangements.  Incredibly, the majority of Women’s Aid groups have no funding commitment beyond the current year. In addition, the rising cost of housing, coupled with social security cuts done in the name of “welfare reform,” is making it harder for our network to meet the cost of their services. Without meaningful, system-wide change in the way vital domestic abuse services are funded, groups face cutting services and closing refuges.  And the women and children of Scotland will suffer.

Scottish Women’s Aid ask all parties to commit to:
:: Specific funding to resource domestic abuse advice and support services
:: A sustainable long-term funding plan to support women and children who have experienced domestic abuse that works across other devolved policy areas, including childcare, housing, income support, and education and skills.

Will you commit to upholding children’s rights in decisions about child contact and residency?

“I have to speak to my dad on the phone once a week and see him once a month. I think it was the court that decided that. They didn’t ask me what I thought, if they did I would say that I didn’t want any contact with him. He hurt me in the past and he hurt my mum and he’s not a good dad. It’s not the parent who should be asked, if someone would ask my opinion they would know what I want, as I made my mind up about not wanting to see him.” (Boy, aged 11, supported by Edinburgh Women’s Aid)

For years, Scottish Women's Aid and local Women’s Aid groups have supported women and children dealing with the danger and fear generated by perpetrators of domestic abuse who use contact with their children to continue controlling and abusing their ex-partners.
Domestic abuse by a parent is a parenting choice to cause harm to a child. For too long, the harm to children caused by domestic abuse and court decisions about residency and access to children have been treated as separate and unrelated issues.
Current legislation enshrines children’s rights to contact with both parents, but only  where the contact is safe for both the child and the non-abusing parent, benefits and is in the best interests of the child, and occurs in a safe and nurturing environment. The legislation is there, but we are concerned that it is not being used adequately.
Children in Scotland who are rebuilding their lives following domestic abuse need to have their voices heard in decisions that affect them. We need decisions made about child contact and residency to uphold children’s rights to safety and protection, and to place the safety, wellbeing, and recovery of the child and the non-offending parent as the highest priority in domestic abuse related contact decisions.

Scottish Women’s Aid ask all parties to commit to:
:: Protecting women and children by ensuring that procedures and legislation are adhered to and that this issue is given full, appropriate and informed consideration by all parties to the matter including the court, local authority social work departments, family law solicitors, Child Welfare Reporters.
:: Supporting children’s human rights by ensuring that decisions about contact adequately include and reflect the voice and views of the child, better provision and earlier access to child advocacy services and appropriate legal representation for children is needed.
:: A specialist domestic abuse child rights officer in every Local Authority should be provided to support children to safely make their views known to the court with regards to contact arrangements where there has been a history of abuse.

Will you commit to preventing women being made homeless because of domestic abuse?


“We had done nothing wrong, but were forced to leave our home, either by the perpetrator or by the housing system that expected us and our children to become homeless. We did not get the support and assistance we expected and needed, but were treated like second class citizens, stripped of our dignity and as if we had no rights. This is deeply unfair: it leaves women to pick up the pieces, blaming them for what has happened and gives power to the perpetrator.”  (The WHIR project community research team)
 
Women and children experiencing domestic abuse are routinely made homeless in Scotland, when fleeing their abuser or, ironically, in order to be eligible for housing support.  Domestic abuse is the fourth most common reason given for a homeless application in Scotland. Our research shows that the lack of a national, gendered policy and practice response to homelessness as a result of domestic or sexual abuse revictimises women and children, multiplying the harm done by their abusers.  Scotland needs housing policy at national and local level that offers women and children real choices for getting and staying safe.

Scottish Women’s Aid ask all parties to commit to the following:
:: Ensuring women and children are given competent and appropriate support to consider their options in housing themselves and their children through provision of domestic abuse-competent housing advice and free legal services.
:: Introducing legislation that protects women and children and allows them to stay in their own homes if they so choose.


Will you commit to ensuring that women and children who experience domestic abuse have access to legal services?

Women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland experience harm through the persistent, abusive, and criminal behaviour of perpetrators of domestic abuse. 
Access to civil protective orders, domestic abuse competent housing advice, appropriate representation in divorce and child contact actions decrease the options for abusers to perpetrate further abuse and allows women access to the legal protections that are their human rights.
Women’s poverty has a considerable impact on their ability to pay for legal services. Their experience of domestic abuse may mean they have little or no access to “household” income or assets. Women’s Aid services, survivors, and solicitors tell us that the main reason women do not take up offers of legal aid, and the most problematic issue for them is contribution levels and eligibility criteria that are inappropriate and unrealistic in the context of domestic abuse.  In effect, our system requires for women to pay for accessing justice and safety for themselves and their children.
Women need access to solicitors who are informed, aware, and sympathetic and who will provide targeted and appropriate legal services to address their complex and, often urgent, legal needs.

Scottish Women’s Aid ask all parties to commit to the following:

:: All women and children experiencing domestic abuse are eligible for free legal services.

:: All Legal Aid provision is quality assured for domestic abuse competence.

:: All provision of family law legal services should be quality-assured for Domestic Abuse competence, especially those funded through civil legal aid.


Nearest SWA Group

Find your nearest Women's Aid group

Current Activities

Non-consensual sharing of intimate media (NCSIM) is a form of abuse

Read the results of our survey on NCSIM (otherwise known as "revenge porn")

 

 

Facts & Figures

On one day in Scotland in 2013, 37 women and 22 children and young people asked for refuge accommodation, but Women's Aid were unable to find suitable spaces for 19 women and five children and young people (SWA 2013)

 

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