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BETTER CO-ORDINATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES CALLED FOR

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A conference of organisations involved in the provision of services to ...
A conference of organisations involved in the provision of services to

women and children who suffer from domestic violence is to be held in

June.

Scottish home affairs minister Henry McLeish said the conference - to be jointly hosted by The Scottish Office, Health Education Board for Scotland, the Scottish Needs Assessment Project and COSLA - would push forward the common agenda on the abhorrent crime of domestic violence.

The minister's announcement came as a major research report entitled

Service Provision to Women Experiencing Domestic Violence was

published by The Scottish Office Central Research Unit. The report,

by Dr Sheila Henderson, was commissioned in response to The Global

Platform for Action, the outcome document from the Fourth UN

World Conference on Women (Beijing, September 1995). The report

is wide ranging in its coverage and identifies a number of gaps in

service provision to women experiencing domestic violence.

Speaking during a visit to Fife Constabulary's highly-acclaimed

Domestic Violence Unit in Glenrothes, Mr McLeish said:

'Domestic violence is a national priority for this government. The

Beijing conference considered violence against women to be one of the

major issues to be addressed by world governments. We take that very

seriously. At UK level, a strategy on violence against women is being

prepared. We are working on our own strategy for Scotland as part of

this. We will be consulting widely on our strategy as this is an area in which partnership is the only way forward.

'Domestic violence must be set in the wider context of violence

against women generally. Violence against women is an abuse of male

power. Women are vulnerable in a variety of settings, but experience

and research has shown that they are particularly likely to be assaulted by partners and ex-partners. Men must be left in no doubt that domestic violence is criminal behaviour.

'Dr Henderson's report concentrates on the response of a range of

services that the woman and her children may encounter as a result of

domestic violence. The police, GPs and hospitals, social workers,

housing departments, the Benefits Agency, women's aid and solicitors

are among the service providers with whom these women have contact.

The research considers the contribution of all these services and the

problems they face. It also identifies gaps and makes

recommendations as to how these gaps can be filled.

'This report is the latest contribution to the body of important reports dealing with domestic violence. We have also, in recent months, had a report of a thematic inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary entitled Hitting Home which considered the response of all eight police forces to domestic violence. This report has helped to develop a much broader understanding of the police response.

'It would be ideal if in every area, women received a comprehensive

and consistent response to the problems they face on the receiving end

of domestic violence. Other recent reports reinforce the need for a

partnership approach. COSLA is currently developing its own

guidelines on a partnership approach on domestic violence. This is a

problem in which various local authority services particularly social

work, housing and education, are often closely involved, and they need

to work together with the other key players.

'In view of the common themes emerging from recent work, Dr

Henderson has now undertaken to prepare an overview paper drawing

out the common themes of recent work. I hope that her further report

will help develop a shared agenda among all the different agencies that are active in this field.

'I am glad to be able to announce that we will be holding a conference

jointly with the Health Education Board for Scotland, the Scottish

Needs Assessment Project, and COSLA, on June 19 at the Police

College, Tulliallan. By that time, the various agencies will have had

time to study the report we are publishing today and consider its

implications for their work. This conference will be about pushing

forward the common agenda on domestic violence. There is a

challenge for every agency in this. This will be a conference for those who are in a position to take decisions and allocate resources. I am as aware as anyone that resources for new initiatives are very scarce. I believe however that if resources are properly targeted through partnership initiatives we can get much more value for what is

available.

'We are also considering within the Scottish Office what changes we

need to make in our approach to ensure that there is a national

framework for taking forward policy on domestic violence. The

government needs to provide leadership which complements and adds

to the valuable work that is already being done by other agencies to

lead and promote partnership at local level.'

The key findings of Dr Henderson's report include:

- while there are a number of sources of help for abused women and

their children there is little co-ordination between service providers at either local or national levels, with organisations, through a lack of knowledge or training, often failing to refer abused women on to other appropriate services;

- while the central belt of Scotland is generally well provided for in

terms of services for abused women, provision in rural areas is much

more patchy causing serious access problems;

- there is a lack of consistency in both the level and quality of

provision by statutory agencies such as the police and housing

agencies;

- disabled women face particular access problems as few service

providers make special provision for them; in addition, there are few

refuge spaces available to disabled women;

- women from ethnic minorities may also face particular difficulties in accessing appropriate services;

- multi-agency working provides a number of distinct benefits but is

not the normal practice.

NOTES

1. The Global Platform for Action called upon world governments

to tackle violence against women as a priority. Subsequent meetings

between Scottish Office ministers and women's organisations in

Scotland highlighted the issue of domestic abuse of women by their

male partners as an issue of great concern. As a result The Scottish

Office commissioned a consultant to conduct a comprehensive review

of current service provision to inform the direction of future

Government policy on domestic violence. The 12-month study

commenced in October 1996.

2. The research was undertaken by Dr Sheila Henderson of the

Research Consultancy Reid-Howie Associates and was published by

the Central Research Unit at The Scottish Office. Further copies are

available from The Stationery Office, 71 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, at a

cost of£10.

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