Dozens of Women’s Aid supporters protest council’s funding decision
Women’s Aid supporters raised their voices and staged a symbolic handbag protest as they protested the North Lanarkshire Council’s withdrawal of funding from the three organizations in the region.
More than 50 women took part in the event outside the headquarters of the Civic Center of Authority, with hundreds more donating bags to show their support and representing what is often the only possession taken by those fleeing the domestic violence and seek help and refuge from Women’s Aid.
Campaigners call on advisers to restore lost Â£ 350,000 funding to the organization’s branches in Monklands, Motherwell & District and North Lanarkshire after new supplier Sacro instead won the council’s tender process for the provision of domestic violence services – and they say they will continue their fight in the municipal elections next year.
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Event organizer Margaret Lynch, from the Support Women’s Aid North Lanarkshire campaign group, said: âWe are absolutely furious with the council’s decision to cut funding for aid to women.
âWomen’s Aid provides trustworthy services and has extensive experience and professional understanding of domestic violence and trauma; the service is designed and managed by women who have themselves experienced domestic violence and who have lived the experience of leaving and taking charge of their lives.
âNorth Lanarkshire is the only council in Scotland that does not fund Women’s Aid. We can’t believe they put out a tender for these services because they didn’t have to, and it was designed in such a way that Women’s Aid couldn’t win.
âIt’s a cost reduction exercise and it’s very hard to understand why they made the decision they made. Women do not come to Sacro asking for help, they always come to the doors of Women’s Aid, in increasing numbers, because they want a trustworthy service only for women.
She added: âThe handbag display was the idea of ââone of the women in a shelter – for most women it is the sum total of what they have when they go out and out. while running.
âThe suggestion was to ask every woman who was helped or who supports Women’s Aid to donate a purse if she couldn’t be here in person. We are looking to sell them to raise funds for the three local groups.
Support Women’s Aid North Lanarkshire says the Â£ 350,000 provided under the previous model “paid 12 workers to provide essential services” and the “new service provides half of the counseling and support hours previously provided”.
North Lanarkshire says the Â£ 1.4million contract with Sacro is better value for money and will better help male victims of domestic violence, with the bidding process following an independent review by the support for domestic violence which “identified gaps in service delivery”.
A statement from the local authority reads: âApproval was given to conduct a commercial tender to procure a service specializing in domestic violence that ensured compliance with legal and legal obligations.
âFollow-up will take place to ensure that this does not diminish access to support for women as those who are primarily affected by domestic violence in our communities.
âThe council will continue to ensure that domestic violence services are available to those in need and will continue to work with local women’s support groups for other services such as providing shelters. “
Coinciding with the authority’s quarterly virtual meeting, the two-hour protest included personal contributions from some of those who were supported by local women’s aid organizations.
Irene McMillan said: âWomen’s Aid was there for me when I needed a safe place to go – they saved my life. I and many other women have been able to build a new life for ourselves because Women’s Aid has given us back our confidence.
The three local organizations continue to provide their range of services, including shelters and child support, through other sources of financial support, including recent funding from Holyrood – but say the impact of the council’s decision was “huge”.
Margaret Ann Jones, Director of Services for Motherwell & District Women’s Aid, said: âThe Scottish Government has stepped in to replace some of the funding, but this does not make up for the total loss and means there is no potential for growth.
âBetween June and September, Sacro had 50 to 70 referrals while the three women’s support groups had 421 referrals; women choose to come to us because they trust our proven outreach service, and we would like funding to be restored through a different mechanism.
Monklands Women’s Aid Executive Director Sharon Aitchison said: âWe are specialists because the women themselves have designed our integrated service over the years – we meet their needs and have services for women, women and men. children and shelters and we reach out to others.
âThis was based on a report of gaps in the statutory provisions, but there is overwhelming support for Women’s Aid and it was an unnecessary choice on the part of the council.
“We can’t thank the women here enough for what they do, and it’s a shame that they had to take up arms in this way and organize it while still going through their own trauma.”
Margaret Lynch, founder of the Monklands Group four decades ago, added: Advice to change your mind and restore funding.
“They can’t take the contract away from Sacro, but this council has a huge budget and we hope the councilors will come to their senses and find a way to replenish what has been taken away from the three North Women’s Aid Groups.” Lanarkshire.
“I predict that we will have to do more because we have had meetings with advisers and it is clear that they will not change their position, but we will make it a problem in the elections next year.”
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