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 created for Edinburgh and the Lothians.
A group of agencies have joined forces to develop the £2.9m bespoke facility, which will be the first of its kind in Scotland when it is launched in Edinburgh next year.
The Equally Safe Multi-Agency Centre is being spearheaded by NHS Lothian, City of Edinburgh Council and Police Scotland and is backed by £2.4m of Scottish Government funding.
The group, which drew in the expertise of charities Rape Crisis and Children First, will launch a one-stop, safe space for child protection, victims of gender-based violence and abuse from across Edinburgh, East Lothian and Midlothian.
Work is expected to begin in 2019 and the specialist centre will bring experts from child and adult protection, healthcare, police and social work together under one roof to provide age appropriate, wrap around care.
The multi-agency centre moved a step closer to reality today after it was given the formal seal of approval at a City of Edinburgh Council meeting, the final partner organisation.
Andrew Kerr, Chair of the Chief Officers’ Group for Public Protection, and Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh 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 implementation will require continued close working and I am confident of our collective ability to deliver this much-needed centre.”
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, said: “This 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.
“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 for adults, young people and children across Edinburgh and the Lothians.”
Police Scotland, which makes up the third member of the Chief Officers Group for Public Protection, said the facility would provide a centre of excellence in Scotland.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, lead for Public Protection for Police Scotland, 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, co-ordinated 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.”
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