A Call for Standards on Accessible Services for Women with Learning Disabilities who Experience Gender-Based Violence: Guest Blog

PublishingBureauSCLD Publication

To celebrate the launch of the Scottish Government’s report on the Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls Services, SCLD invited the Chair of the review, Lesley Irving, to reflect on the recommendations of the report to ensure women with learning disabilities can realise their rights. Lesley is also the former Head of the Scottish Government’s Equality Unit.

Lesley Irving

Coming out of retirement to chair a huge project like the Independent Strategic Review of Funding & Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Services was not something I had planned.  However, I’m really glad I did – although I’m looking forward to being properly retired again!

I knew that it would be important to speak to women from a wide range of backgrounds, so we could hear about what their experiences were and could make recommendations which would work for them.

We also met a large number of organisations who supported women, children and young people with different characteristics, who were able to tell us about how VAWG affected their service users.

And we put out a Call for Evidence, including Easy Read and British Sign Language versions,  in which we asked a number of questions about services.

As I was aware from previous research about the extremely high levels of abuse experienced by women with learning disabilities, I was particularly keen to make sure we found a way to engage with them.  SCLD was an obvious partner for us and I was really pleased when we managed, after a fair bit of going back and forth due to budget constraints, to hold a day long workshop with four women with lived experience, with the help also of Central Advocacy Partners – Survivors Project. Some of the women we met agreed to appear in our short film (link at end).

As well as this thought provoking day, it was very helpful to have the evidence of the Unequal, Unheard, Unjust: But Not Hidden Anymore report when it came to drafting our recommendations.

We decided to take a bold, wide ranging and ambitious approach – including putting VAWG on a statutory footing with a legal right to services.  This means that anyone who needs help and support to escape from any type of abuse, or to recover from their experiences so they can make new lives and thrive, will be able to get these services.

Children and young people will be regarded as co-victims along with their mothers in the case of domestic abuse, which will open up access to support for them in their own right.

We have used a human rights framing, which will mean that Scotland is fully compliant with international human rights requirements – we’re very far from that at present in how we are failing to provide support for women with learning disabilities among others.

And we have made specific recommendations which will additionally benefit women with learning disabilities, as a direct result of our meeting and SCLD and People 1st (Scotland)’s report.

Recommendation 22 calls for training for sheriffs on learning disability and recommendations 45 and 46 call for standards for service providers to include training on learning disability and for standards on accessibility.  We have also suggested that new services provided by some groups for members of those groups should be set up, including for women with learning disabilities.

Our plan will take some time to be implemented.  But I am confident that it will make a difference, long overdue, for women with learning disabilities experiencing VAWG.

You can read our full report at this link.

There’s also a short film featuring some of the LD women we spoke to.

Lesley Irving
Chair of Independent Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls Services