Scottish Survivors are Locked Out & Locked Up
Monday, March 12, 2018
Last night Sisters Uncut Edinburgh posted several hundred posters across the city, to highlight the impact of austerity on survivors of violence and the specialist services they need.
Scotland has the second highest women’s prison population in Northern Europe, and domestic violence has been repeatedly highlighted as a key driver for imprisonment. Survivors are being locked up in prison and locked out of support services. As recently as 2015, a Scottish survivor of domestic abuse was sent to jail for failing to testify against her abuser. Giving the police more power is dangerous, power must be in the hands of survivors by funding specialist domestic violence, housing and welfare services that we need to leave violent relationships safely.
The Scottish Government recently passed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill 2017. This legislation will supposedly make it easier to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, by introducing a new offence for domestic abuse. We say that this is a dangerous distraction from the current funding crisis and a failure to address patriarchal personal and state violence. The criminal justice system does not work for survivors.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is a cover-up for cuts, and Scotland must use its new powers to do more than shuffle around existing funding for refuge and other therapeutic services. We say power needs to be given back to survivors by properly funding specialist domestic abuse services as well as vital legal aid, housing and healthcare that gives survivors agency to make safe choices about their lives.
Austerity cuts have decimated domestic violence services since 2010. Scottish Women’s Aid report that cuts to Scottish refuges have increased from 14% to 41% between 2009 and 2016. In their latest annual survey they also report that 30% of survivors who sought refuge in Scotland were turned away. At the same time, cuts are being made to other vital services such as specialist domestic violence services, rape crisis centres, housing, healthcare and legal aid. As a result survivors across the UK are finding it increasingly difficult to leave dangerous abusive relationships, live safely and heal from trauma.
The way refuges are funded is changing, but the impact of cuts are being completely ignored in this discussion. The Scottish parliament is being given new powers over refuge provision, while across the whole of the UK there are plans to move refuge funding away from housing benefit. Sisters Uncut Edinburgh know that re-shuffling funding whilst ignoring the devastating impact the cuts has already had on the sector is dangerous. Refuge funding must never be ‘discretionary’, it should be independent and secure, used to fund comprehensive and specialist services to meet the needs of all survivors, especially disabled, trans and migrant survivors, who are more likely to be locked out of services.
The Scottish parliament has been given new powers over refuge provision. The Scottish government must use these powers to build a better system of welfare provision for survivors of gendered violence. However in reality, the impact of austerity, which has left domestic violence services crumbling, is being left out of debates about how Scotland should use its new powers. The Scottish government must guarantee long term secure funding for domestic violence services and reject the criminalisation survivors of violence and abuse.
Sisters Uncut Edinburgh demand local authorities, Holyrood and Westminster stop ignoring the violent impact of cuts to domestic violence services and provide the funding needed for specialist domestic violence and welfare services to meet the needs of all survivors.