SUPPORT group which helps women and children who have been victims of violence and domestic abuse in the Nairn area claims its clients are being discriminated against because of where they live.
The Community Violence and Abuse Support Service (CoVASS) is unhappy with the funding it receives from Highland Council compared to other similar groups. And it claims its future is now threatened by lack of cash.
CoVASS, based in King Street, Nairn, helps women and children in Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey and receives £8661 per year from the council.
However, service manager Kim Haywood claims Inverness Women’s Aid receives £229,576 per year from the local authority, Caithness Women’s Aid £158,660, Ross-shire Women’s Aid £243,673 and Lochaber Women’s Aid £102,692.
"As one of five groups all working to the same remit of violence against women, CoVASS receives just 1.1 per cent of the total pot," Ms Haywood said. "The disparity is unbelievable."
Despite raising the issue, CoVASS claims the council has "point blank" refused to redistribute the money equally.
"A lot of the reasons they give are just superfluous," Ms Haywood stated.
CoVASS, which runs a safe house in Aviemore and accommodation in Nairn for emergency cases, supports around 100 women and 40 children every year and at any one time can be helping up to 45 women.
"Our numbers are significantly higher than some of the other groups," said Ms Haywood. "We have done a lot of research into this, trying to show we should be funded more fairly."
A campaign poster produced to highlight the issue claims a woman living in Nairn with a violent partner is worth £62.31 compared with £1724.98 in Dingwall and £3891.14 in Inverness. CoVASS says the figures are based on the council’s allocation of funding and the number of people each group helps.
"What we want is for the council to look again at the funding policy for violence against women and redistribute funding available more fairly, because actually the women and children of Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey are being discriminated against because of where they live," Ms Haywood said.
"I feel it is immoral — just because you live in Nairn, Aviemore or Grantown you are not worth as much as someone else living in Inverness or in Ross-shire."
She admitted funding was very tight. "We are not meeting the needs we know are there, we just don’t have the staff to do it."
Nairn councillor Liz MacDonald fears for the service’s future. "There is not equity of funding across Highlands," she said. "There is going to be a review in the next financial year of women’s aid services but I am concerned that won’t be until the next financial year and that might be too late for CoVASS. They do a lot of good work in Nairn."
Bill Alexander, the council’s director of social work, acknowledged groups received different levels of funding.
"Different groups provide a variety of commissioned services in different areas," he said. "That is why they have different levels of funding. However, we have been seeking to review these arrangements in a consensual way, including with CoVASS."