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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Women's Aid considers legal action following council defunding

This news post is 11 months old

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.”



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Joao Goncalves
11 months ago

It's a bit shocking that the reasoning for the decision is not explained in this article.

As can be read in the Scotsman, a big factor of why they did not get the contract (as opposed to having funding pulled away from them, which is very different!) is that the contract was for gender-neutral services. Apparently, a source inside Women's Aid said:

"We also don’t accept men in our refuges which we are entitled not to do in law as a single sex service so the odds of any of us winning the tender were stacked against us".

Yes, how dare North Lanarkshire Council not award you a contract which you are, very clearly, unwilling to deliver to its full terms. Women's Aid are letting themselves down with this entitlement and bias. Victims are victims regardless of sex/gender.

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11 months ago

The time is long overdue for SACRO, SAMH and other national voluntary organizations to come under governance and financial scrutiny by OSCR. How does a community justice organization legally run refuges in Lanarkshire? How does a mental health charity legally run homelessness or drug services in Scotland. Do these national organizations use the unrestricted funding they raise through their ample fundraising departments to subsidize public sector contracts? Local vol. orgs. certainly do not have access to these fundraising resources. National vol. orgs. are sharks in the pool undermining the funding base of smaller local charities in Scotland who go to the wall. They disempower local communities as decisions are taken elsewhere. They are voluntary in name only. They would be better legally described as public service contractors.