Guest blog: Are our communities and volunteers really valued?

Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre

Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre

At our local third sector partnership gatherings and events we’re hearing some topics coming up more frequently than others.

“The funding pots have totally dried up for this work, I’ve no idea what to say to our service users if we can't keep the project going”; “Loads of our volunteers are leaving for paid work, they can't afford to volunteer anymore”, or; “What chances do we have of filling that vacancy it's only a 12 month fixed term contract”.

This unstable and uncertain funding landscape impacts all our abilities to provide bespoke services to our community and with household budgets pinching meaning fewer people volunteering, it gets even harder to reach those we want to help.

These are communities we are part of and passionate about, we are here to serve survivors of sexual violence. Charities like ours working in the Violence Against Women sector see the compounding effects that poverty has on recovery from trauma and the with uncertainties for our long-term funding, how can we reassure survivors that they will get support they deserve when they need it? Survivors can’t wait, and they shouldn’t have to.

A little perspective-

Third sector organisations are the backbone of social change. They address issues that might otherwise go overlooked, advocating for those who often don't have a voice. In the case of Lanarkshire Rape Crisis, we provide essential support to survivors of all forms of sexual violence and abuse, aiding in their healing process and empowering them to engage in the criminal justice process.

Despite the critical role we all play, third sector organisations struggle to secure the funding we need. The competitive applications process, unpredictability of funding sources, and the disproportionate burden of administrative and reporting requirements exacerbate the problem.

As an organisation we serve all of Lanarkshire; a population of 664,030 people, roughly evenly split in the North and the South. Women and girls, our key beneficiaries, make up more than 50% of that population.

Reported sexual crimes in Scotland have increased by 70% over the last 10-year period, and these, as well as the huge volumes that go unreported, frequently leave survivors with effects on the physical and emotional wellbeing as well as damage to trust in relationships with loved ones and with agencies and systems who have further traumatised them. In the last 5 years new referrals to our rape crisis services have: increased by 44%, the total number people we have supported has increased by 63% and the total number of support and justice advocacy appointments has increased by 249%.

With a small staff and volunteer team we work tirelessly to provide the highest quality service to hundreds of survivors every year and work in partnership with schools to support the sexual violence and consent education of up to 2 thousand pupils per year.  And so, with all these figures in mind, it is a shameful position that vital services like ours rely on applying to small trusts, funds from lotteries and pleas to the public to put their hand in their pockets in order to pay running costs and keep buildings in working order. It begs the question; is this funding landscape also a reflection on the level of value and priority for survivors of sexual violence and their needs? LRCC fully supports the call for third sector fair funding.

The Need for Fair Funding:

  1. Sustainability: To fulfil their missions effectively, third sector organisations need sustainable funding models. This includes multi-year grants, core funding, and flexibility to allocate resources where they are needed most.
  2. Fair Allocation: Funding should be distributed fairly, taking into account the specific needs and impact of each organisation. It should not be a one-size-fits-all approach.
  3. Reduced Administrative Burden: Simplify reporting and administrative requirements to free up valuable staff time for their core work.

Supporting and Valuing Communities and Volunteers:

At LRCC our staff and volunteers dedicate their time and emotional energy to supporting those in need. Our paid and unpaid workers deserve to know that the work they do is valued and respected. As a Living Wage employer, we support the call for the Scottish Government to fund the third sector to make the living wage a minimum baseline for fair wages.

A statement from Helen Provan, our Centre Director:

The demand for our specialist services has increased every year in the 19 years we have been operating; we see first-hand the devastating impact sexual violence offences have on those directly affected, their loved ones and the wider community. I spend hours every week on funding searches and applications, and my time would be better spent supporting our team and improving and developing everything we do. In the next 5 years I want to see significant investment in and commitment to preventing all forms of sexual violence; from robust justice responses and targeted work with young men & boys, to impactful education programmes and approaches integrated into every school. Trauma-skilled support and justice advocacy services for anyone impacted by sexual violence need to be available regardless of postcode and these services need to be funded and developed strategically and responsively to ensure survivors have every opportunity to recover. We stand alongside third sector organisations in every sector, in calling for fair funding and the fair recognition of our workforce; we are all here to fight for those who have no voice, but this work can only be truly impactful when real commitment and investment is made in our sectors.

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