That culture within the police has changed dramatically over the past decade, which is to be commended. For example, Strathclyde Police has been very innovative in the run-up to and immediately after old firm games when, as a direct result of police activity, there has been a 28 per cent reduction in the incidence of domestic abuse, be it against men or women.
Mainstream services provided by organisations such as Victim Support Scotland, health services and local authorities have a responsibility to support all victims of domestic abuse with the same courtesy and understanding. Victim Support, for example, provides practical and emotional support to all victims of crime, including men who experience domestic abuse. It is the largest voluntary organisation addressing the needs of victims in Scotland. In addition, there is now a specialist service providing support to male victims of domestic abuse in Scotland, which I will come on to in just a moment.
It is clear that domestic abuse against a man is just as abhorrent as when a woman is the victim, and the Government is committed to tackling the issue. However, it is also clear that there are differences in the experiences of male and female victims, and in their service needs. One of the benefits of the launch of a specialist helpline is that it will help us to collect the necessary intelligence to enable us to design services for male victims of domestic abuse over a period of time.
The Government recognises that men who experience domestic abuse require a service that is specific to their needs. That is why, in March, with cross-party support, I launched the extension of the men's advice line service to Scotland. The helpline has been funded with £12,000 initially for this year on a pilot basis. The funding came from the equality unit budget and not from money that would otherwise have been used to provide services for women, and it is for one year at present, with the option to continue thereafter. The men's advice line is a confidential, freephone helpline offering emotional support, information and practical advice to male victims of domestic abuse. It will gather information on the number of
It is very early days yet but, in one month alone, the helpline had 21 calls from Scotland, with five of those being from male victims of domestic abuse. If we assume that the same number of calls will be received each month this year, that will be equivalent to a rise of 150 per cent in the number of calls in a year compared with before the launch, despite the fact that publicity material is still being distributed and is still to be made widely available throughout the country. The men's advice line will be an invaluable source of information about male victims in Scotland. We have never previously had the opportunity to gather such in-depth intelligence on the issue.