North-east groups are to benefit from a £4.25 million Scottish Government funding pot to help women and children experiencing or at risk of violence and domestic abuse.
The funds will help respond to an increase in demand from victims of abuse for support services during the coronavirus pandemic.
More staff, increased hours for centres and helplines, improvements to IT and new digital resources and training will all allow services to be up-scaled so that more people can quickly and easily access help.
Among the funded projects is Aberdeen Cyrenians which should receive £32,239 for 2021/2022, and Grampian Women’s Aid which has an indicative funding amount of £85,000 for the same period.
While Moray Rape Crisis Centre should get £5,842, and Moray Women’s Aid £12,517.
Fiona Whitehouse, service manager for ending violence and abuse Aberdeen at Aberdeen Cyrenians said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on women and girls experiencing gender-based abuse, with lockdown restrictions increasing isolation for those in abusive situations.
“This has been overwhelmingly distressing and traumatic, with many women having endured long periods of feeling utterly trapped with no alternative options available.
“Thankfully, we have been able to continue to support women to increase safety for them and their children, including those needing to flee to safe accommodation.
“We have helped over 100 women and families in Aberdeen since March and the number of women coming to us for support continues to rise.
“We commend the Scottish Government for taking quick action to ensure services can increase the support available to women and girls as this pandemic continues to impact their lives.”
Aileen Forbes, manager of Grampian Women’s Aid, said: “This funding announcement demonstrates a clear recognition from the Scottish Government of the important and necessary work Grampian Women’s Aid carries out to protect the safety and wellbeing of women and children living with domestic abuse in the city and across Aberdeenshire.
“We are pleased the funding will provide some financial stability for our service and assist us to respond to the heightened demands for support we are facing during these unprecedented times.
“We shall be expanding ways we provide our support particularly to children and young people, ensuring they have access to our specialist service. Our dedicated team will provide essential support in a variety of ways, giving young people the opportunity to explore their feelings and experiences confidentially in a safe environment without judgement, enabling them to become resilient, happier and a more confident individual.
“It is important to note there has always been a need for our specialist support, but Covid-19 has given perpetrators additional tools to harm and coercively control women and children and, since lockdown measures have eased, we have seen a significant increase for our service of around 38%.
“We are painfully aware that this situation will not disappear in the near future as we may be faced with a second wave and beyond. However, this new funding means that we will be able to continue to support women and children across a variety of services and ensure that our vital support is accessible when and how women and children need it.
“Covid-19 has highlighted the essential work Grampian Women’s Aid carries out. As the specialist provider of domestic abuse support, we call on local authorities and the Scottish Government to work with us, as a member of Scottish Women’s Aid network, to investigate long-term sustainable solutions to provide funding to deliver this vital and essential support service to protect the women and children across Scotland.
“It is well known that domestic abuse is an under-reported crime, but with almost 2,000 domestic abuse charges in Grampian since lockdown (Crown Office) the need for sustainable funding for the provision of this important and necessary service is vital.”
Equalities Minister Christina 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.
“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. Police Scotland continue to prioritise domestic abuse cases so I would also encourage anyone suffering violence and domestic abuse not to hesitate to get the support they need.”