Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rape Crisis Centres

Harriet Harman recently announced new funding of up to £1million, aimed at keeping a number of Rape Crisis Centres open. It's really good news, but as she says, it's emergency funding while they sort out the longer term. So what's needed in the longer term?

There are 38 Rape Crisis centres in England and Wales, and the average time on waiting lists to access the services provided by Rape Crisis is 5.3 years (just under 2,000 days). It also means that whether or not women are able to access these services depends on whereabouts they live.

In Scotland
, by contrast, Rape Crisis is funded by the national government, and there is a minimum standard set for all areas, which local authorities can improve on (as they do in, for example, Glasgow) but which all have to provide.

One advantage of devolution is that different parts of the UK can learn from each other about what works, and adopt good ideas. The Scottish model of funding is one that our government could use for the rest of the UK. Rather than having to spend vast amounts of time on chasing 1 year grants of funding as at present, it is obviously better if people running Rape Crisis centres can spend their time on providing services.

It's popular for politicians of all parties to talk about the need to devolve services down to the local level, and give more decision-making power to local councils and local communities. The experience of Rape Crisis Centres shows one potential problem with this - one reason why the number in England and Wales has halved in the last quarter century is that it hasn't been any statutory body's responsibility at a local level to fund them or help them get funding from other sources. When funding has been tight, it's gone on the services which have been required by law, and on trying to keep the council tax down to get votes.

It's only one part of tackling the horrifying levels of violence against women, but every area in every part of the UK should have a Rape Crisis Centre.


At 8:02 pm , Anonymous Bridget said...

The standard set for the provision of women's refuges is also better. It's 1 unit per 7,500 population in Scotland, compared to 1 unit per 10,000 in England.


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