Charity believes North Lanarkshire Council's tender lacked scrutiny
Scottish Women’s Aid has slammed North Lanarkshire Council for putting vulnerable women at risk after it cut funding to its services across the region.
Councillors this week decided to stop funding Women’s Aid services and instead fund a generic service provider following a competitive tendering process which the charity said was lacking in scrutiny.
The move affects Monklands Women’s Aid, Motherwell District Women’s Aid and North Lanarkshire Women’s Aid – three long established, specialist services.
Community justice organisation Sacro will now deliver the service on behalf of the council in a £1.4m, four year contract.
Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, called the move “callous” and said she was “appalled” by the action.
She added: “While Women’s Aid services were busy responding to covid to continue providing their vital support for women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse in North Lanarkshire, they were met with hostility in unnecessary, competitive tendering processes from North Lanarkshire Council that lacked both transparency and accountability.
“This did not have to happen and the result is that North Lanarkshire is now the only local authority area in Scotland that does not commission Women’s Aid services – a sad reflection of their complete lack of understanding of the complex nature of domestic abuse and an upsetting dismissal of decades of work by grass-roots, local Women’s Aid services who are trusted and respected within their communities.”
However the charity said that due to other sources of funding, none of the groups will have to close their doors though their capacity will be affected and their reliance on short-term, precarious funding streams is a threat to the rights and safety of women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse.
Scott said SWA will continue to communicate with elected members about concerns around the tender process and intends to publish those communications in due course.
“Given the severity of the situation, and the direct risk to the rights and protections of women and children experiencing domestic abuse, we are also carefully considering the legal options available to us,” she said.
Sharon Aitchison, chief executive of Monklands Women’s Aid – which offers refuge provision and services for women, children and young people – said: “We are devastated at NLC’s decision to remove funding from proven specialist Women’s Aid services.
“Monklands Women’s Aid is a grassroots organisation that has been serving our community for 40 years. It is built on the premise of women supporting women, and as such we are a trusted independent local service which helps change and save lives. This decision undermines the availability of quality proven local independent specialist support.”
A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council refuted the claim the tendering process was lacking in scrutiny.
“It is simply untrue for Women’s Aid to suggest that the council has anything other than the welfare of people who require support in mind,” they said.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, the council has not withdrawn any grant funding from Women’s Aid. A tender was issued in accordance with procurement regulations for these services and Women’s Aid chose to bid for that contract on a commercial basis.
“Women’s Aid were not successful in their bid for the contract. We will continue to work with local women’s aid groups for other services such as refuge provision.”