“We take the person as they come, understand their experiences and we work hard to try and help them recover from what they have been through.”
Those were the words of Sinead Daly, who has dedicated her life helping women who have suffered horrendous physical and sexual abuse.
As the Dundee Woman’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre’s CEO for the past five years, Sinead has seen her workload increase on an annual basis – without the funding to match.
She announced last week she was stepping down from her role in Dundee to take up a new position at a university.
Sinead has worked to help women protect themselves for nearly two decades and says she’ll continue her advocacy work in her new role as chief executive of the University of the West of Scotland’s student association.
In an interview with the Tele, she explained how women’s support services are still desperate for more funding.
She said: “In the last year, we’ve helped 549 people. Every year it’s increasing at a rate of about 20%.
“If you think about that over the last five years, it was about the 300 mark when I started, so it is significant each year.
“Our waiting list continues to grow. We might have had piecemeal bits of money, but because that increasing demand has not been matched with new workers, it just continues to grow.
“We have an advocacy service now with two workers who have a caseload of 90 women between them – that’s not sustainable.
“We’ve got a part-time post for prevention for the whole of Dundee and Angus who is supposed to be able to run prevention workshops in high school. If we really want to change things, then we have to invest.
“Angus gives no funding whatsoever to deal with the issue of sexual violence so I would like to see Angus Council do more.
“I think we need a model of funding which allows us to plan for the long term. We would have had to lay off staff if it wasn’t for money we just received in October.
“For Vice Versa (a commercial sexual exploitation project) we used to have a service, but now we have one worker. That’s 80 women for one person to be delivering support to.
“There are increasing numbers of women involved in street prostitution in Dundee so we need to have a sustainable model.”
Reflecting on what progress has been made to support women in Dundee over that period, she said: “There’s been a huge difference. It’s taken us a lot of time to attract the funding we’ve needed.
“We’ve got more staff than we’ve ever had. We’ve got better at being able to communicate the difference that our service makes to the people that we support.
“WRASAC changes lives. We do satisfaction surveys with all our survivors and 100% have rated as either excellent or very good. There’s not a lot of services that can say they have that.”
Despite the charity’s evolution and improving profile, Sinead said the need to protect vulnerable women in the city is more important than ever.
An Angus council spokesperson said: “Angus Council funds refuge accommodation for women who have suffered domestic abuse, including sexual violence and treats matters of adult and child protection with the utmost seriousness. We can confirm that we do not specifically offer funding towards services offered by WRASAC. We provide funding to Victim Support and, under Section 12 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act, will provide individuals with financial support where appropriate.”