Whole Lives: Improving the response to domestic abuse in Scotland

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We are pleased to publish the Whole Lives Scotland Impact Report – a three year programme that aimed to review and improve the support available for victims of domestic abuse in Scotland. 

This programme undertook a wide range of research to understand what’s working, and identify barriers and gaps.  As well as gathering insight from victims and survivors of domestic abuse, statutory services, and a wide range of specialist domestic abuse providers, we also undertook a national survivor survey which found that :

  • The impact of domestic abuse is multi-faceted
  • Many survivors experience abuse over a long period
  • Most survivors don’t access specialist domestic abuse services
  • Survivors tell multiple people including professionals about abuse but this does not always lead to referrals
  • Disability and sexual orientation are linked to different experiences of abuse
  • Survivors say more awareness of domestic abuse in all its forms is the biggest thing that could make a difference to accessing services
  • Survivors who reach specialist services call it a ‘lifeline’, but fully funded provision needs to be a priority

In response to our research findings, we have worked with victims-survivors and services to start the work to address these issues, and have already developed :

  • Mental health and domestic abuse one day training course
  • Mental health and domestic abuse guidance for professionals
  • Guidance for professionals using DASH with victims of domestic abuse who have learning disabilities
  • The Talking Mat Risk Assessment tool for victims-survivors with communication needs
  • A domestic abuse policy and workplace toolkit
  • Easy read posters about gender based violence
  • Easy read intake resources for GBV services
  • Learning disability and domestic abuse referral pathways
  • Awareness raising resources for young adults
  • Domestic abuse champion guidance

The Authentic Voice panel, comprising ten women with lived experience of domestic abuse, was established as part of the programme to put survivors at the heart and start of work to improve service provision.  The panel is a lasting legacy of the Whole Lives Scotland programme, and is advising a range of agencies across the country in policy and service development.

Read more about the difference the Whole Lives Scotland programme has made in our Impact Report.

View the interactive Whole Lives Scotland Impact Report here:


Our Whole Lives Scotland report, released in 2017, pointed to inconsistencies in the response to domestic abuse across Scotland, creating a 'postcode lottery' for victims, survivors and whole families. 

We're pleased to be continuing our Whole Lives Scotland work, thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund Scotland, to explore some of these gaps and inconsistencies further. 

Consistency, that’s the thing that I’m banging on about all the time… that’s what we’re trying to push. Because there is such a difference and discrepancy….It shouldn’t matter where the victim is, they should get the same support wherever they are.

- Head of a domestic abuse support service

Beginning in 2018 and running until 2021, we are working with local authorities, including Renfrewshire, Stirling and Aberdeen City, to improve the responses for groups of victims and survivors across Scotland who often remain 'hidden' from identification and therefore the support they need. 


In Renfrewshire, we focussed on victims and survivors with mental health needs, looking at the additional barriers they face in accessing support. Read our report and recommendations


In Stirling, we focussed on victims and survivors with learning diasbilities - agreeing to look at this in the broadest sense, encompassing mild to complex levels of need and inclusive of those with or without a clinical diagnosis. Read our report and recommendations.

We have also worked with People First (Scotland) to develop an easy read version of the recommendations

Aberdeen City

In Aberdeen City, we focussed on younger victims and survivors, aged 16-25, considering whether they face additional barriers in accessing support. Read our report and recommendations.


Your Story Matters: National Survivor Survey 

As part of our Whole Lives Scotland work, we held a national survey, allowing us to hear the voices of survivors across Scotland. 

We asked - what did you need in those moments? What made a difference to you? How can we make sure that those who need help get the right help at the right time?

Thank you to everyone who helped share the survey, and most importantly, thank you to every survivor who took this time to complete it. We heard from over 300 survivors, from every local authority area in Scotland. 

This survey is just the start - we'll be using the findings to work with our partners across Scotland to improve the response to domestic abuse. 

Read the full findings report

I didn't really think it was domestic abuse at the time, I'm still a bit hesitant to use those words, there were no punches to report or bruises to hide. Maybe if I'd known that it doesn't have to be like that I'd have told someone. It was my first real relationship so I just thought that was the way.

Feedback from the survey findings launch event

SafeLives have captured the themes so well and the authentic voices of survivors.

This can be used to support and motivate survivors to feel less alone.

Really fascinating - some things seem familiar and some new - great to see the stories and hear people's experiences. 


Meet The Team 

Our Scotland team are working across Scotland to improve the response for all victims, survivors and whole families. Meet the team behind our Whole Lives Scotland work

To keep up to date with our latest work and findings in Scotland, please sign up to our Scottish newsletter.

For further information, contact scotland@safelives.org.uk