Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future: Session 2 – Service Provision for Domestic Abuse Survivors

The Professionalisation of Activism – the impact of regulation on feminist organisations

Linda Rodgers, Scottish Women’s Aid

Linda Rodgers


Download as MP3

Download PowerPoint presentation



–          Works in arena of organizational development

  • Change in organizational structure of women’s aid groups
    • From collectives to hierarchy managed by board of directors
  • 1973—1st women’s aid group set in Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • 1992—40 local groups collectively managed and a collective national agency (SWA)
  • 2003—one group changes to a hierarchal structure; SWA amends affiliation agreements
  • 2004—more hierarchal structured agencies established

–          Focus on regulation

  • Raises interesting questions on how we organize in the mainstream
  • Can we be a movement and a service provider at the same time?
    • No answer yet

–          Regulatory bodies, 3 main groups:

  • 1) OSCR—Charities Act 2005 (regulates the ability to have a majority of paid staff; stops workers self-organisation/collectives)
    • Prevented changes to the constitution
  • 2) Care Inspectorate—2001 Regulation of Care Act
    • Requires named managers in all registered organisations
  • 3) SSSC—(started 2001), 2009 Code of Practice
    • Required specialist qualifications for different roles
      • Contradicts collective practice

–          What women said about these regulatory bodies:

  • Individuals having more responsibilities than the whole organisation à problematic
  • Issue around qualifications
    • Previously supported by all women to join women’s aid, but now excluded those unqualified who would have been welcome by a collective
  • Previously women who had come thought the service became works, but regulation prevented this now
  • Forced those qualified in other ways to go back and get more qualifications (gendered?)
  • More of a social work environment than an activist environment
  • Change of language to more social work language from activist type

–          How do these regulation delay work and support rather than help domestic abuse victims?

  • Less helpful than collectives
  • Not purposeful to deter the organization; unintended consequence was the shift away from collectives



Brian Dempsey: Are there any allies n challenging the overly restrictive regulatory frameworks?

–          Trade-unions, groups for children, lawyers

–          Issue with charity organisation is still influenced by Victorian philanthropic attitudes

  • No benefits for workers/profits

Clare Connelly: Reflecting on legal regulation; legal regulations drafted very narrowly without a thought to the others who would be impacted

–           Expectations underestimated

–          Problem with responsibility being taken on by volunteers that may put them at high risk

  • Costly and over sighted


–          Getting status for the work women had always done is another way to look at occupational segregation

  • Qualifications does provide better status for all the work done
    • An unintended consequence?
  • Problematic area to professionalise this type of work but still keep up the movement side to the work and services provided by these organisations
    • Double edged

–          How policy changes are dressed up in moral language

  • Austerity measures of today cause more women to suffer due to cuts in poverty provisions
  • There is a pattern from 19th century to today and connections should be maintained between them

–          Gendered policies—always there, but coming back ever more today

Kim (GEWA): Regulations on barriers, but once in a collective or an agency these regulations benefit career advances and provide more opportunities for those in the organisation/collective