A GROUP of 300 women have sent their handbags to Motherwell to show their disgust for the council's decision to remove local authority funding from three women's aid groups.

The striking display represents the fact that when women leave a violent partner, very often the only thing they take with them is their handbag.

Women across North Lanarkshire have been raising their voices in anger at the decision to cut funding to the aid groups which many believe will leave vulnerable women without the support they need.

North Lanarkshire Council said the local women's aid groups didn't provide enough value for money and there were gaps in services for male victims.

The services have been replaced by a domestic abuse suppoprt service which is being delivered by community justice organisation Sacro.

A group of women met at the Mothewell Civic Centre on Thursday (October 7) to demonstrate against the decision. The demonstration was planned to coincide with a full council meeting that was originally planned to be held in person but a last minute decision moved it online.

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Women who could not attend the demonstration sent over their handbags to show support and to represent women who left abusive partners with only their handbag to their name.

Following the withdrawl of council funding to the three women's aid groups, a group of local women who have all either received service from women's aid in the past or have been long-term supporters, campaigned to have it re-instated.

The £350,000 of council funding paid for 12 workers to provide support services across the local authority area.

READ MORE: Women’s aid groups fear service cuts to 'wider equalities agenda'

A spokesperson for the Support Women’s Aid in North Lanarkshire group said: "North Lanarkshire Council’s new service delivered by Sacro provides half of the counselling and support hours previously delivered by Women’s Aid.

"To add insult to injury not only has the Council taken the funding away from Women’s Aid – but they have butchered the budget in the process.  The Sacro service does not only cover women, but provides direct services to men also – further depleting the resources available to support women fleeing violent partners. 

"Meanwhile, Women’s Aid are experiencing unprecedented demand for their services."

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Women's Aid in North Lanarkshire helped Valerie Little's mum when she and her sister were younger and praised the support they received at a critical time.

She said: "We needed that safe space, space away from men, and away from fear and abuse. We needed that specialist service with their knowledge and experience in order to heal and begin our lives again.

"I’ve never forgotten the amazing ladies who supported us, and helped us. We cannot allow this service to be underfunded and devalued by a greedy and uncaring council.”

The service also helped Irene McMillan when she needed somewhere to go. She said that the service saved her life, and called on the council to "come good on this issue" and re-instate funding.

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She said: “Women’s Aid was there for me when I needed a safe place to go to. They saved my life. I and many other women were able to build new lives for ourselves because Women’s Aid restored our shattered self-confidence.

"For the sake of local women in desperate situations, North Lanarkshire Councillors have to come good on this issue – they have to find a way of restoring funds to Women’s Aid.”

North Lanarkshire Council has said the Sacro contract was awarded after a “normal procurement process and regulations” and it will “continue to work with local women’s aid groups for other services”.

The Sacro service commenced from June 1, 2021 and will be in place for a four years.