the number of women and children in the Borders who are at a high risk of domestic violence is higher than had been expected, prompting Scottish Borders Council to reassess how it responds to their needs.
In 2009-10 there was an increase in the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to the police; an increase in repeat victimisation; an increase in the number of children present when police attend an incident; a rising number of children in the child protection system due to domestic abuse; and an increase in homelessness as a result of domestic abuse.
There is also insufficient refuge provision - currently the region has five spaces and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities recommends 10 places per 100,000 population, plus the service is too centralised for such a rural area as the Borders making it difficult for women to access the help they need at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.
In a major attitude change to dealing with domestic abuse cases all agencies in the Borders have come together to create a new way of responding to the needs of the victims and when Scottish Borders councillors meet this week they are being asked to adopt the new service.
Research has shown that victims are still not sure where to go for help, nor are they confident that the support they get will ensure their safety. “This new service will be the first point of contact for all victims and their children,” said Andrea Beavon, Violence Against Women co-ordinator, in her report to councillors.
The new model consists of three elements: advocacy, community outreach and workforce development, and both the Big Lottery and the Scottish Government have expressed interest in “such an innovative and creative response”, that focuses on the specific needs of women in the region
The cost to the area of domestic abuse is thought to be in the region of £50 million a year. Funding requirements are currently £392,000 and Scottish Borders Council currently provides funding of £74,000.