Equally Safe in Orkney – thoughts from Women’s Aid Orkney’s AGM

At our AGM last week, we were delighted to welcome Dr Marsha Scott, CEO of Scottish Women’s Aid to Orkney. She shared her thoughts on current progress towards keeping women and children equally safe in Scotland and indeed in Orkney.

This was her 4th visit to the county and Marsha reflected that she was “very impressed with the change” she could see. Commenting to BBC Radio Orkney Dr Scott said that “the environment here, while still far from ideal, has improved.”

You can listen to the full interview here at 13 mins:

Improving environment – thanks to your support

Here at Women’s Aid Orkney, we really feel this change on a daily basis. From community support with fundraising winning us 1st prize in the Tesco Bags of Help, to partnership working with local agencies. We recognise an openness and willingness to acknowledge experiences of abuse. More and more we are working together to keep women and children equally safe in Orkney. And for that we really want to thank each and every one of you.

Introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act (Scotland) 2018

However, that goal is a long way off, nationwide. There is work to do to change the facts that one in four women experience domestic abuse and one in four men perpetrate it.

One in four women experience domestic abuse

And one in four men perpetrate it.

Dr Marsha Scott, WAO AGM

That is why the introduction of the new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 is so significant. It recognises that abuse is a pattern of behaviour. It identifies the dynamics of fear and control that exist within abusive relationships. And, it recognises the experience of children in their own right.

For the first time, the law criminalises a range of abuse, including emotional, psychological, financial, physical and sexual. Watch this video to find out more:

Indeed, the new law is a remarkable achievement. And remarkably, it was developed with a lot of involvement and consultation from people with lived experience. Yet, for it to be truly remarkable, we have to #MakeTheNewLawWork.

How can we #MakeTheNewLawWork?

Recognising controlling behaviour as abuse is critical to keeping women and children equally safe in Orkney. Whilst it may be invisible from the outside, its impact can be devastating. In fact, a recent study has shown that it is part of a pattern that sees abuse escalate to violence and in some cases homicide.

So, how can we use the law to make women and children equally safe in Orkney? The first step is improving our awareness and knowledge so that we can see the signs of controlling behaviour. We need to talk about it, break down the stigma around survivors and let perpetrators know that it’s not okay! Finally, to help people safely access appropriate specialist support, we need to acknowledge the impact it has. Simply put, be open minded and compassionate towards each other.

Join us for training – you’re invited

Women’s Aid Orkney would like to invite anyone who is concerned about domestic abuse to contact us for information, support or training.

On 8th October, we will be receiving training from Scottish Women’s Aid, here in Orkney. We’d like to encourage professionals and practitioners to join us to improve your awareness and find out how we can work together to #MakeTheNewLawWork. Get in touch with Michelle Ward or Danielle Moodie on 01856 877900 or info@womensaidorkney.org.uk

September Newsletter – pause for thought!

Welcome to our monthly update. With the change of season and the beginning of more challenging autumn months, the September Newsletter is a chance to pause for thought. It’s so important when things start to feel challenging that you take a moment to recognise what you’ve achieved, no matter how big or small. So to kick off the September newsletter, we want to invite you to celebrate your small wins and those of our service users!

Women’s Service

78 Active Cases | 47 New referrals

CYP Service

32 Active Cases | 10 New Referrals

Service User Achievements

  • Starting a new job
  • Taking steps to start a business
  • Coming along to lunch group and making new friends
  • Going to science festival events.
  • Feeling more positive
  • Getting a good outcome in court, and feeling safer as a result.
  • Prioritising herself and engaging with support


The children & young people have been very busy over the holidays. They’ve enjoyed a movie club and a bouncy castle party. And on top of that, they’ve been working together to create a script at two drama group sessions. The theme that they have chosen for their play is conflict resolution and we can’t wait to see how it comes along.

How Does WAO Help Us?

Last month’s peer participation mural was a chance for the children and young people that we work with to pause for thought and tell us in their own words how WAO helps young survivors of domestic abuse. Here is what they came up with:

Women’s Aid keeps women and children safe by helping them to learn to be safe

CYP Aged 12

Women’s Aid has helped me with Everything

CYP Aged 9

Spotlight on Events & Training

WAO has been working with partners to offer up some additional training and information sessions in the Autumn. There is something for everyone, so come along! And why not think about getting involved to support our work to end violence against women and families locally.

For Service Users

Lunch club is going strong. Drop-in on Tuesdays to prepare and enjoy a delicious soup, with good company and relaxed conversation.

Talk to your key worker or call us on 01856 877900 if you’d like information or support to attend.

For Members & Supporters

Everyone is welcome to come along to our AGM on the 25th September at 6pm. We can’t wait to thank you all for your support over the last year as we share some of our achievements and plans for the coming year. We’re also excited to be joined by Marsha Scott! Come along to hear about how Scotland is working to ensure that we are all ‘Equally Safe’.

Find out more and RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/womens-aid-orkney-annual-general-meeting-tickets-72219030063

Information sessions

We are always happy to hear from community groups and members of the public who’d like to know more about domestic violence in it’s many forms, and how we as a community can support survivors. Contact us via info@womensaidorkney.org.uk or call Michelle Ward on 01856 877900 to arrange a session.

Womens Aid campaign launch at the Pickaquoy Centre. 6/12/13 Tom O’Brien

For Professionals

Human Trafficking & Commercial Sexual Exploitation – Awareness Raising

On 23rd and 24th September Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) are coming to Orkney. They are offering four opportunities for professionals to update their knowledge on trafficking and exploitation in Scotland, and how this relates to Orkney.

Find out more, and register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/trafficking-awareness-raising-alliance-20050704275

Coersive Control – What does the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act mean in practice?

On 8th October, Scottish Women’s Aid will be in Orkney to provide training on coersive control in the context of new legislation in Scotland. Places are limited, but we are keen to share this as broadly as possible. Please contact Women’s Aid Orkney if you’re interested in this session.

August Newsletter: WAO ‘Summer’ Soup and Cyber Security!

Welcome to the Women’s Aid Orkney August newsletter! We dive into a comforting bowl of soup as the August ‘summer’ weather keeps us guessing. Women & young people celebrate that all their progress is success. And we get schooled by our children & young people (CYP) on cyber security. So, thank you for taking a minute to catch up with us. 

Women’s Support Team

74 accessing support

CYP Support Team

31 accessing support

Service User Achievements & Feedback

  • Secured new tenancy
  • Moving on with new relationships
  • Awarded benefits to improve financial stability & independence
  • Completed further studies
  • Started a new job
  • Good outcomes in court
  • Getting more active
  • Trying new things

Women’s Lunch Club

We’re so pleased with the success of our ‘soup group’ as one SU put it! Each week we get together for women’s lunch club to prepare & enjoy a healthy lunch. Some women come with an interest in learning new recipes, others just come for a chat and the sociable side of things. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and folk are free to come and go as they please. Some SU’s have found it’s a safe place to start to be more sociable and try new things.

CYP SODA Cyber Safety

The Children & Young People Survivors have been learning about cyber safety this month. Below is what they said were their takeaway cyber safety tips. And the mural they created as a team, displaying how they have learned to safeguard themselves online.

CYP Pier Arts Outing

Our CYP support team arranged a fantastic trip to the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness for the children’s Peer Group. Our mini artists enjoyed lots of fun activities put on by the staff and a tour of the gallery.

What’s on at WAO

1:1 Support

Our trauma-informed support services continue to run throughout the summer for women and children aged 3 – 18. Support is tailored to the individual, focusing on safety and support to recover from the effects of abuse.


We continue to seek to provide as many feedback opportunities & methods as we can so that women and children feel they can be open about their experience of the service and also contribute to improvements.

Special Thanks to…

  • Lindsay: Kirkwall Police Station, for her time, consideration and in depth understanding of the complex dynamics of the abusive relationship which helped a woman feel less vulnerable and more protected.
  • Carol: Pier Arts Centre, for being so patient and lovely to our CYP group and putting on such fun activities which they all enjoyed.

July Newsletter: What’s on at WAO this summer?

Welcome to the Women’s Aid Orkney July Newsletter! We’re excited to share with you some of our plans for the summer. We also want to give you a flavour of what women and children who use our services have achieved recently. And let you know how you can help grow the supportive community we see in Orkney time and time again. So, thanks for taking a minute to check it out 🙂 

July Newsletter announcement to Save the date - AGM 25th September @ 5.30pm.

Women’s Support Team

27 referrals | 73 accessing support

CYP Support Team

7 referrals | 31 accessing support

Service User Achievements & Feedback 

  • Ending a relationship with an emotionally abusive partner (CYP SU)
  • Getting legal support to get a Non Harassment Order.
  • Leaving the house and coming to support sessions. (SU)
  • Reducing support sessions and feeling confident to attend appointments alone. (SU)
  • Returning to work, taking up volunteering and looking for employment (SU’s)
  • Overcoming difficulties with bullying and social confidence. (CYP SU)
  • Feeling able to say No to her abuser and resisting his demands for money.  (SU)
  • Managing the pain and distress of an extended and traumatic medical procedure positively without resorting to harmful coping strategies. (SU)
SU Feedback image

Spotlight on Prevention

Let’s end domestic violence together 

We believe that the only way to achieve a world free from violence against women and girls is to change attitudes. So, only by coming together to understand how this affects us all as an island community can we build a stronger and safer community for our children to grow up in. 

That’s why our information and training sessions are free and can be tailored to you as an individual or group.  So whether you’d like to know more about new legislation, or have a general overview of our services, please get in touch. We’re keen to reach out to people in more remote parts of Orkney too – so if you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you!

To register interest for a session contact Michelle Ward: info@womensaidorkney.org.uk

CYP SODA share their tips for staying safe

Last month, Children & Young People Survivors worked on safety, creating a group mural. Here is what they had to say :

  • We have the right to be safe
  • It is safe to talk to doctors, police and teachers, even if you don’t know them. 
  • Keep safe when people are fighting by staying out of the way, finding a safe room and phoning for help. 
  • Keep safe at home by locking the doors and finding a safe room.
CYP SODA Safety - peer participation mural

Summertime at WAO

We’re enjoying this summer and there is lots going on around the refuge to tempt the sun out to join us. 

Summer Peer Group

With the school holidays just around the corner, the CYP workers have been putting the final preparations in place for peer group activities, including some more meetings of a drama group led by our young people. When asked how they think the group can help young people impacted by domestic abuse with their confidence and making friends, they said:

We can trust each other more because our mums and us have been through the same thing…
[the drama group] helped quiet people to get the chance to join in. 


The CYP team have also inspired us by getting out in the garden and have a go at growing some plants alongside the WAO gnomes. Thanks to all our helpers who pop into the garden throughout the year – You know who you are!

Some of our attempts blew away in the unseasonable but never unexpected weather last month. Set back, but not defeated, we adapted to a spot of indoor gardening. We’re still keen to make more use of the outdoors though. So, find out more about our upcoming project plans here: https://www.neighbourly.com/project/5acf2856c7ac8e0a908b6e2e/information

Lunch Club

Last month also saw the launch of an informal weekly lunch club for women who use our services, or have used them in the past. The idea is simply to have a regular time to drop in to a safe and friendly space. Women can help to prepare the lunch, or simply relax and enjoy the company.  So far, we’ve experimented with using up leftover lettuce by putting it in a refreshing soup, and warmed our cockles on rainy July afternoons with Leek and tattie soup.

1:1 Support

Our trauma-informed support services continue to run throughout the summer for women and children aged 3 – 18. Support is tailored to the individual, focusing on safety and support to recover from the effects of abuse. 


We’ve recently added some opportunities for women and young people who use our service to share ideas for more service development. And we’d welcome ideas and feedback from you too…we’re looking forward to seeing how things grow. 

July Newsletter Collage of WAO development activities including peer group, feedback tree and CYP Greenhouse & art

Special Thanks to…. 

Working with other professionals and groups in the community is a key part of how we support safety and recovery. This month we’ve been grateful for input from from all of our partners, but we’d like to take a moment in the July Newsletter to say a special thanks to….: 

  • Stephanie; Kirkwall Police Station for being so understanding and offering great support in keeping women and their families safer from domestic abuse
  • Alison; Children & Families Social Work – the women who use our service have told us how grateful they are for her support.  
  • The Foodbank – for going beyond in their efforts to help. Thank you for being compassionate and flexible.
  • S3 pupils at KGS and Stromness Academy who did a fantastic job representing WAO at the YPI events! 

Bisgeos Donation Helps Kick Start Refuge Refurbishment

Early this week, Women’s Aid Orkney were delighted to kick-start a refuge refurbishment with delivery of new chairs. The support rooms, used by refuge tenants and members of the public, have benefited from the upgrade. This is thanks to an impressive donation from the Bisgeos Run totalling £2785.00.

The new additions are inviting, comfortable, safe and durable… words that simply didn’t describe the old chairs. Unfortunately, like much of the furniture in the refuge, they’d seen better days.

So the donation has helped bring a new lease of life to the rooms where women affected by domestic abuse can access free and confidential support from specially trained workers. Michelle Ward, Service Manager explained:

“It seems like a small thing, but chairs are essential to the welcoming and supportive environment that we provide to over 100 women in Orkney every year. We want women to feel safe and comfortable when they come to us and this small change has already been well received.

“Women’s Aid Orkney would like to thank the organisers, the participants and everyone who sponsored the Bisgeos event in Westray last August.

“Updating the support rooms has only been possible thanks to donations. We are always humbled by the support we see from the community time and time again.”

Refuge Refurbishment

Yet there is a long way to go. This marks the beginning of a refuge refurbishment programme Women’s Aid Orkney is hoping to be able to progress in 2019. The furniture in the three refuge flats are showing signs of wear and tear. And it’s no wonder, having offered a home to 45 women and 54 children over the last five years alone.

Accessing our service can be a very daunting & scary time for women and families. Often they will not have had the opportunity to make their own life-choices due to domestic abuse. And they can arrive with little or no belongings. That’s why having somewhere that looks & feels homely is vital. Our aim is to empower women and children to live a safe and independent life of their choosing. For some, coming into refuge is the first step on this journey and we need to ensure that it is safe, secure, comfortable and family friendly.

We need your help

As a small charity, Women’s Aid Orkney’s funding covers staff and operational costs only. So, continued improvement of the facilities will only be possible with further support from the community. That’s why Women’s Aid Orkney would like to encourage people to get involved  in fundraisers throughout 2019.

Upcoming fundraiser – bags of help

First off, we’re included in Tesco’s Bags of Help during May and June. Just look out for the tokens at the checkouts and you can vote for Women’s Aid Orkney to receive a further cash boost to help with the refuge refurbishment.

Duty of Candour Report 2018-19 for Women’s Aid Orkney

Women’s Aid Orkney is pleased to publish our Duty of Candour Report for 2018 – 19. It states that there have been no serious adverse events during the reporting period.

new online materials

But what is duty of candour?

WAO is registered with the Scottish Social Services Council and regulated by the Care Inspectorate. Duty of candour is one of the legal requirements that comes along with that. It exists to ensure that organisations take specific steps when things go wrong. So, when mistakes happen, and things go wrong, Women’s Aid Orkney must:

  • Make sure that the people affected understand what has happened.
  • Apologise to the people affected.
  • Take the opportunity to learn how to improve for the future.

Commitment to high quality services

As well as meeting legal requirements like Duty Of Candour, Women’s Aid Orkney is committed to delivering the best possible service to women and families affected by domestic abuse.

We work hard to meet the Scotland’s Health and Social Care Standards. This is monitored by the Care Inspectorate. Our latest inspection was in 2018. So to find out more about the quality of our services, you can read report here.

Events to Celebrate International Women’s Day 2019

We’re delighted to be celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 with our friends at Orkney Library and Archive and Parkrun Kirkwall. From reflection to cake or getting some fresh air we’ve got something for everyone between 4th March and 9th March 2019. So, what’s happening?

Celebrating Women in our Community

We will have a display in the library all week with leaflets and pictures highlighting Women’s Aid Orkney services.

And thanks to Leila Dearness, we’ll also have a papercut display celebrating strong and successful women.

So, why not pop along and add your own story or quote? This could be about you, a person you admire or someone that has helped you through a tough spot. Share your stories with us anonymously to celebrate the strength and resilience that helps us overcome challenges on a daily basis.

Coffee Afternoon Event

Then on Friday 8th March we’ll be co-hosting a coffee afternoon in the library’s MacGillivrary Room. Everyone is welcome to join us for some tea, coffee, cakes and treats as you wind down for the weekend.

Event to celebrate women's day - Coffee afternoon - 8th March at 2pm, Kirkwall Library.

Parkrun in Purple Event

And to round it all up (and work off that cake) we’ll be showing support for all the women in our community with Parkrun in Purple.

In case you haven’t heard, Parkrun Kirkwall holds a 5km community event every Saturday at the Peedie Sea. You can walk, jog or run and best of all it’s free. You can do it just for fun, a great way to get some fresh air. But for the more competitive, you can keep track of your time by registering here: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/form/  

We’re delighted that on Saturday 9th March the park run is part of our programme of events to celebrate International Women’s Day. That’s why we’re asking people to wear purple or pick up a ribbon from our volunteers along the route to show support.

Donations for all of the events through the week will be gratefully received by Women’s Aid Orkney. All your donations contribute to our work with women and children in our community who are affected by domestic abuse. Find out more about how you can support our work here.

Women’s Aid Orkney AGM – Save the Date

Women’s Aid Orkney AGM is on 6th September. All members and interested parties are welcome to come along. So if you’re interested in our work, remember to save the date.

Our guest speaker will be Zelda Bradley from Orkney Rape Crisis. Since 2018 marks 100 years’ of the suffragette movement, Zelda’s talk is sure to be an interesting one.

Following the AGM we will have an Extraordinary General Meeting to appoint new Directors. The Board welcomes applications from all members interested in getting involved. If you have 3 hours/month to spare and would like to support our work, we’d love to hear from you.

We look forward to seeing you there!










Care Inspectorate Report 2018

The Care Inspectorate recently made a visit to Women’s Aid Orkney to review our service.

The Care Inspectorate inspect the quality of care that we provide to our service users. They make sure that we meet their high standards. And where we don’t they provide support to help us to make improvements. The results from our latest inspection are now available.

You can read the results here: 2018 Care Inspectorate Report

We’re pleased with the feedback and looking forward to building on the team’s good work by implementing the recommendations made by the Care Inspectorate. The most important part is the feedback from our service users. That is afterall why we do what we do:

“I struggle making decisions – anxiety gets the better of me. They accompany me to meetings to help me cope.They help me to use different coping strategies … Its been a lifeline. I don’t know how I would have coped
without them. They always get back to you”. 

“… I feel so much better than when I arrived. I had nowhere to turn to, I was isolated, I’d no-one to talk to…I’m now getting all this support I’ve needed for years. I’ve got this chance to get my life back on track…”

Women’s Aid Orkney provides a range of emotional and practical support to women and children affected by domestic abuse. Contact us to find out more about what we do, how we can help you, or what you can do to support our work.