Fears for city victim support services as funding cuts loom

VITAL support for victims of domestic abuse in the Capital could be cut because of funding reductions, Edinburgh Women's Aid warned today.

Communities Minister Alex Neil has promised the total amount of funding from government for tackling domestic violence will be maintained next year. However, groups working on the front line say there is still uncertainty over how the government cash will be allocated and they also expect cuts in the funding they receive from the city council.

Edinburgh Women's Aid gives support to hundreds of women in the Capital every year. The group said its core funding from the council had been cut by nearly 113,000 over the past three years.

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The budget from which the money comes is being reduced by five per cent, but no decision has been made on what that means for individual groups.

Although the Scottish Government has promised not to cut central funding, Edinburgh Women's Aid manager Michele Corcoran said groups were likely to have to bid for cash, so there was no guarantee of what they would receive.

This year, Edinburgh Women's Aid got 50,000 from the Violence Against Women Fund, which helped pay for outreach work, and almost 100,000 from the Children's Services Fund.

Ms Corcoran said: "It's the uncertainty for the future that's the worst part. As far as the children's services are concerned, we don't know what to do between January and March. Do we limit the number of referrals we take? Do we tell people we won't be able to provide support past March?

"On core services, another five per cent cut, if that's what it turns out to be, is a significant amount of money."

Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm welcomed Mr Neil's pledge not to cut total funding, but pointed out that cash given to councils which was previously ring-fenced for tackling domestic violence no longer had to be spent for that purpose.

He added: "The council in Edinburgh faces very difficult spending decisions but it would not just be wrong to cut support for women in this situation, it would also be false economy since spending now can save direct and indirect costs later."

A government spokeswoman said: "We are fully committed to tackling all types of domestic abuse and our funding commitment reflects that."

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A council spokesman said: "The administration is currently considering savings proposed by officers and decisions will be taken at the council's budget meeting in February."