A pioneering centre for children, young people and adults who have been victims of sexual assault and other forms of abuse and neglect is to be opened this year. The £2.9 million “bespoke facility” in Edinburgh will be the first of its kind in Scotland.
The Equally Safe Multi-Agency Centre is being spearheaded by Police Scotland, NHS Lothian and City of Edinburgh Council and is backed by £2.4 million of Scottish government funding.
Police Scotland, one of the three members of the regional Chief Officers’ Group for Public Protection, said the facility would provide a centre of excellence in Scotland.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, the force lead for public protection, said: “This is a significant and important step forward in improving and providing a trauma informed service to children who may have been neglected or abused and to adult victims of sexual crime.
“By bringing together multi-agency, coordinated services in one location, as close as possible to the point of need, our aim is that this will create a service that will minimise anxiety and provide all the support that victims might need.
“We are fully committed to providing this service and to working with our partners and with other agencies to build a multi-agency provision that will be a centre of excellence and model for how we deliver these services across Scotland in the future.”
The new centre draws on the expertise of charities Rape Crisis and Children First and will be a one-stop, safe space for child protection, victims of gender-based violence and abuse from across Edinburgh, East Lothian and Midlothian.
It will bring experts from child and adult protection, healthcare, police and social work together under one roof to provide age appropriate, wrap around care.
Andrew Kerr, chair of the Chief Officers’ Group for Public Protection and chief executive of Edinburgh City Council, said: “The creation of this centre is a fine example of partners working together providing services for the benefit of the public when they need us most.
“The centre will deliver specialist services for both child and adult victims of sexual assault and other forms of abuse. Professionals will work together to hear their accounts and provide healthcare and other support if needed.”
The centre will be created in St Katharine’s Centre in Edinburgh, which is currently owned by the City of Edinburgh Council.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We are working to improve the experiences of victims at every stage of their journey through the justice system. An important focus is ensuring appropriately designed, trauma-informed healthcare services, which include facilities to capture forensic evidence, are made available to meet their needs.
“That is why we are supporting the Equally Safe Multi-Agency Centre, with more than £2 million of Scottish government funding from justice and health budgets. It will bring together health, justice and social work services and is an excellent example of partners working collaboratively to provide vital services for children, young people and adult victims of sexual assault and other forms of abuse.”
Tim Davison, chief executive of NHS Lothian, added that the “bespoke facility will provide vital services to adults, young people and children when they are at their most vulnerable”.
“It is important to make sure the centre meets the needs of the people who will use it and we have worked closely with Rape Crisis and Children First to gain their expertise and inform each step in our planning process,” he said.
“Now we are keen to make sure this vital project becomes operational as soon as possible and we will continue working with our partners to drive it forwards.”
The Scottish government will provide funding for NHS Lothian, which is taking the lead on the project with Police Scotland, local authority and third sector partners to take ownership of the facility on behalf of partner agencies.
Ongoing costs will be shared between NHS Lothian, Police Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, Midlothian Council and East Lothian Council.