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Domestic violence services have reached ‘critical point’ amid rising violence against women, council tells

A rise in violence against women is pushing services to tackle the issue to breaking point, despite a fall in the number of recorded domestic violence cases in East Ayrshire.

The council’s governance and control committee heard a report on how East Ayrshire is approaching the issue.

Councillors heard that support staff feel “guilty and responsible for not being able to provide the level of service they want and need”.

The annual report from the East Ayrshire Violence Against Women partnership has revealed that the number of incidents in the area recorded by Police Scotland has fallen for the first time since 2016/17 – from 1,574 in 2021/22 to 1,552 in 2022/23.

This makes East Ayrshire the 15th borough in Scotland with the highest incidence of domestic violence.

The report continues: “Local police statistics and statistics for all sexual offences in East Ayrshire, regardless of the gender of the victim/survivor, indicate that sexual crime continues to rise.”

A number of related statistics for the period were also revealed:

  • The number of reports of domestic violence against women aged 16-25 increased by almost 10%, from 215 to 236 cases.
  • The number of reported cases of rape and sexual violence in the same group increased by more than 31%.
  • The number of reports of domestic violence against women aged 26 and over increased by almost 19.4%, from 515 to 615 cases.
  • The number of reported cases of rape and sexual violence in the same group dropped by more than 24%, from 49 to 37.

The report continues: “This trend indicates a continuing upward trend in the number of children and young people experiencing domestic violence in their family life.

“The data continues to show a growing trend over the last four quarters in which domestic violence has been a concern in an increasing number of child-related reports made to police.

“These numbers show that domestic violence continues to be a harmful and challenging factor in our communities.”

It is clear from the report that organisations working to tackle this problem are coming under increasing pressure.

The document stated: “There are concerns about increased referrals of women, girls and children experiencing gender-based violence requiring support from specialist services to address violence against women and girls in East Ayrshire.

“There are also concerns about the current challenges faced by services addressing violence against women and girls and whether this may be impacting on outcomes for women and girls.

“These services support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape and trauma. They are largely funded through complex, reductive, short-term financial arrangements.”

The opinions of these groups highlighted several key issues.

It added: “Some organisations have said they have reached ‘breaking point’ and have had to find resources out of thin air to support people.

“These services feel and feel a sense of guilt and responsibility for not being able to provide the level of service they want and need.

“The creation of waiting lists as a necessary way to manage unpredictable demand has increased risk as organisations continue to be ‘liable’ for those waiting for their services.

“Often, a watered-down form of support is offered while someone waits – and this also creates risks for the organisation.

“Providing support to victims of domestic violence and sexual harm is stressful work that carries the risk of vicarious trauma.

“Dedicated professionals who are regularly asked to do more experience stress and burnout, despite the comprehensive support they receive within their roles.

“For some local third sector providers, current funding and commissioning structures create significant burden and uncertainty, with financial uncertainty putting pressure on service managers. Short-term contracts for staff increase the sense of organisational pressure as retention rates are threatened.”

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