The Welsh Government is failing women in Wales leaving them to face domestic abuse, sexual violence, sexual exploitation and harassment according to a new report.
The report reveals the truly awful scale of the abuse again women in Wales with hundreds of sexual assault victims still waiting for support along with over 400 women were not able to access refuges because of a lack of resources.
The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 (VAWDASV) has been in place for four years and places a duty on public bodies to both prevent the issue and protect and support survivors.
However this report by auditor general, Adrian Crompton looking at the progress in implementing the act found that there continues to be “an inconsistent, complex and fragmented system.”
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Despite this and a public drive to raise awareness on the issue the the report found a number of key shortcomings including:
Because no single agency has responsibility, victims find it difficult to find help
Public bodies are reactive instead of preventative and there fail to balance the short and long-term needs of victims and survivors
Funding for public bodies is too complex for them to assess value for money and help them transform services
Welsh Government guidance coming “too late”
According to Welsh Women’s Aid data quoted in the report, there were 12,166 survivors were supported by specialist services during the financial year 2017/18.
Of them, 431 survivors were referred to refuges and were unable to be supported because of resources and capacity limitations.
On top of this there was a waiting list of roughly 300 survivors of sexual violence waiting for help in dealing with their experience(s) of sexual violence and abuse.
Auditor general, Adrian Crompton said: “I am publishing this report just before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It’s concerning to find that, four years after the introduction of this ground-breaking legislation, victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence are still being let down by an inconsistent and complex system.
“Effective collaboration and joint working are essential to ensure these services are efficient and effective, particularly given the fragmented nature of delivery across public bodies.”
Other issues found in the report included agencies not sharing the data that could combat the issue. According to the report the introduction of GDPR in May last year has brought these tensions into even greater focus and is seen by some as a barrier to planning, integration and collaboration”.
- A Welsh police force was accused by its own officers of covering up domestic violence within the ranks.
- In the “worst ever case of domestic violence a woman was locked in a flat and tortured by her partner while she was pregnant.
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- I was raped and abused by family members as a child then targeted for speaking out.
The report did say that the Welsh Government provided guidance, but was critical of their ability to produce relevant support due to time keeping issues with 55% of respondents saying that it was produced too late to be of use to them.
For example, the guidance on development of local strategies, originally due in May 2016, was delayed and eventually published almost two years late in March 2018.
Apart from the terrible human cost of this kind of violence there is also a huge financial cost. Research estimates that domestic violence costs Wales £826 million annually: £202.6 million in service costs, £100.9 million to lost economic output and £522.9 million in human and emotional costs
Eleri Butler, CEO, Welsh Women’s Aid said: “We face a stark choice in Wales of delivering on the national duties to prevent, protect and support survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, or to fail survivors in Wales by continuing a piecemeal approach that does not meet the needs of women and girls that are living everyday with domestic abuse, sexual violence, so-called honour-based violence, sexual exploitation and harassment.
“Domestic abuse alone costs society £66 billion a year in England and Wales. Imagine if the state ring-fenced a small portion of this cost to society to invest in specialist services, including refuges and rape crisis provision. Just 10% of this budget could end the ‘quick fix’ approach and deliver a long-term, whole system response to ending violence against women that really makes a difference to survivors as well as deliver prevention in our communities.”
“In Wales, Government committed to provide sustainable funding for specialist services in its 2016 national strategy. Services have called for at least five-year sustainable funding to enable them to meet need and reduce levels of abuse in their communities. We are still waiting for this commitment to become reality. We need everybody to be working towards a Wales where no one is turned away from life-saving and life-changing support when they need help and that, in Wales, we ensure everyone can live free from fear and abuse.”
In response the Welsh Government said that there had been progress made since the report came out.
The deputy minister and chief whip Jane Hutt said: “We will carefully consider the WAO report and its recommendations. We feel it is important to highlight the many positives contained within the report, including the fact our Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act is helping to drive the transformation of services despite prolonged austerity and collaboration with partnerships is well established in many parts of Wales.
“This review has been conducted over a period of 18 months and over this time we have made considerable progress, including publishing a delivery framework; statutory regional commissioning guidance; re-introducing the sustainable funding group; consulting on and reviewing the effectiveness of training.
“We have also redesigned our Live Fear Free website; produced and distributed information materials to all relevant authorities and their partners; reviewed how we can engage with under-represented communities; piloted a survivor engagement panel and run a number of very successful communications campaigns.”