CHARITIES helping rape victims and abuse survivors are to be given greater financial security through a change in their government funding.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said the groups would be funded on a three-year basis instead of the current 12-month footing, giving them "greater clarity and reassurance".

The change to their funding regime is due to take effect from July.

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Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland welcomed the move, saying it would allow them to spend more time helping women "rather than filling out yearly application forms".

More than £20m is going to projects from the Government's equalities budget for 2016-17, with £11.8m to services helping women and children who have suffered domestic abuse.

Meeting staff and volunteers at Women’s Aid in Stirling, Ms Constance said: “These organisations do a huge amount of work in supporting those affected by violence against women and girls, and we want to enable them to plan and function as well as possible.

"Enabling and empowering women to leave violent situations requires long-term work and planning, and so we know longer-term reassurance, and preventative action, is important to this sector in particular."

Marsha Scott, chair of Scottish Women's Aid, said: “It is hard to overstate how important a more stable and efficient funding environment is to our Women's Aid groups, our women's sector partners who do such important work to address the causes of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls, and to ourselves.

"Three-year contracts allow us all to spend more time on service provision and investment in early intervention.

"Most important, perhaps, the Government's announcement sends the signal to other funders and to women and children experiencing domestic abuse that Women's Aid services are stable and sustainable, and Scotland's eyes are on the prize of ending domestic abuse."

Rape Crisis Scotland national co-ordinator Sandy Brindley said secure funding was “crucial” for organisations such as rape crisis centres.

She said: “It means that we can dedicate more resources to our work supporting survivors of sexual violence, rather than filling out yearly application forms."