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Highland Council says no to victim support group

By Gavin Musgrove

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Kim Hayood and CoVASS finance officer Emma Mulraine
Kim Hayood and CoVASS finance officer Emma Mulraine

HIGHLAND Council has been slammed by victims of domestic violence and abuse in Badenoch and Strathspey for not helping a lifeline service.

Community Violence and Abuse Support Service (CoVASS), which runs a safe house in Aviemore for women and their children, could be forced to close their doors next Spring.

The group also offer one-on-one counselling, self-esteem classes and group therapy sessions at their office at Craigellachie Crescent in the village and through their outreach services.

One woman, who did not want to be named said: "Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. It's a disgrace."

Funding for CoVASS from the Scottish Government - worth £92,587 per annum for the past three years, runs out in March, 2012.

Inverness Women’s Aid is currently awarded £233,546 per year from Highland Council, while Ross-shire Women’s Aid receives £243,673. Their counterpart in Caithness and Sutherland is awarded £158,660, and Lochaber’s £102,692.

However, CoVASS – which was set up six years ago – receives just £8,661 per annum from the local authority.

CoVASS manager Kim Haywood said they were unhappy with the response following their meeting in Grantown with Highland Council - and in particular from officials.

She said: "We have questionned why we are not being treated the same by the council as other victim support groups for women and we get no answers from them."

Mrs Haywood said that their work would not be covered by Women's Aid in Inverness if and when they had to shut their doors.

Clients who have benefitted from the service provided by CoVASS in the past, she said, include rape victims, girls who have been sexually abused and victims of domestic violence.

"We get the whole range of problems even in a small community like this," said Mrs Haywood.

"Without us local women and their children will just be back at square one with no immediate help available."

In the past year, CoVASS has dealt with 130 clients, and currently has around 50 victims of domestic abuse and violence using their services.

The group has refused to sign a new contract with Highland Council for two years for the current amount of funding in order to bring the matter to a head.

Local MSP Dave Thompson (SNP) has called on Highland Council to review their funding stance.

In the meantime he said that he would press for Ministers to fund half of the service if CoVASS put in an application for funding to the Scottish Government.

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