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Pioneering pilot scheme being run by far north women's aid group

By Gordon Calder

A FAR north women's aid group is pioneering the first pilot project of its kind in Scotland.

Caithness and Sutherland Women’s Aid, along with their counterparts in Lochaber, run the Ask Me Community Ambassador Scheme. Training is underway and is to take place in Wick later this month and in Thurso in October.

Kate Blowers, Caithness and Sutherland Women’s Aid manager, said:"We know the scheme will have a big impact here, especially in some of our really remote areas where the support of local people has been the foundation of communities for centuries. The ambassadors will be an important front-line resource in our fight to stop domestic abuse and will ensure that those needing help know how to access our agency support workers.

"The scheme is a simple idea that aims to have a big impact on how we identify, support and challenge domestic abuse. People within a survivor’s community are often the first to know that domestic abuse is happening but a lack of understanding and confidence can make people afraid to talk about it and unsure of how to respond when someone speaks out. The Ask Me training equips everyday people with an understanding of domestic abuse and ways in which to respond appropriately. By believing, listening and having the knowledge of where professional help can be found the ambassadors role can be lifesaving."

The 2019 National Rural Crimes Network Report found that domestic abuse will last, on average, 25 per cent longer in rural areas and is half as likely to be reported. Rural isolation is adding significant barriers for survivors of domestic abuse.

Catherine Russell, Caithness co-ordinator of the scheme with her Lochaber counterpart, Cathie Way
Catherine Russell, Caithness co-ordinator of the scheme with her Lochaber counterpart, Cathie Way

Catherine Russell, is the Caithness co-ordinator for the scheme. She said: "We have already had a fantastic response from a wide range of people. We are delighted with the feedback from our ambassadors who have said the training was excellent and they felt truly inspired to make a difference, however small, in their local area".

She pointed out that the training is free so any member of the community, over the age of 18 years old, can attend.

"Getting the right response from friends and neighbours can help build confidence for survivors to take the step to reach out to agencies for help.We are recruiting people of any gender and from any background."

The Ask Me scheme is a partnership between Scottish Women’s Aid, Women’s Aid England, Welsh Women’s Aid and Women’s Aid Northern Ireland.

If you want to become a community ambassador and attend one of the local training sessions you should contact Catherine on catherine@caswa.org.uk.

Training will be taking place at the Nucleus archive in Wick on August 22 and 23 and at the North Highland College UHI in Thurso on October 16 and 17.

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