Is the Violence against Women (Wales) Act 2015 working?

10 February 2017

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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On 15 February, the Assembly will debate the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee’s report on its post-legislative scrutiny of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.

The Act aims to:

  • improve the public sector response to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence;
  • give public authorities (such as councils and health boards) a strategic focus on the issue, and
  • ensure the consistent provision of preventative, protective and supportive services.

The main provisions of the legislation, alongside the Committee’s findings and the Welsh Government’s response, are highlighted below.

Pace of implementation

The Committee was concerned that the pace of implementation of the Act has, in some areas, been slow. It is more than 18 months since the Act was passed, and some key parts of the Act are yet to be delivered.

The Committee was particularly concerned that the commissioning of services was taking place without statutory guidance from the Welsh Government, which could lead to inconsistencies that would be at odds with the core aims of the Act. It also highlighted concerns that the rise in demand for services as a result of the Act was not being matched with sufficient and sustainable resources.

The Committee made recommendations including:

  • The Welsh Government should set out anticipated delivery dates for the outstanding delivery plan, guidance and regulations, with the priority on commissioning guidance; and
  • The Welsh Government should have urgent discussions with the UK Government about the future funding arrangements for independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs).

The Welsh Government response states that:

  • the multi-agency guidance “will be considered in light of the local government White Paper”;
  • “the plan for rollout of Ask and Act will be developed from July 2017”;
  • statutory commissioning guidance “will be consulted on by July 2017”;
  • “guidance will be published in relation to local strategies in July 2017”, and
  • national indicators will be published “not before” October 2017.

It also notes that discussions with the UK government have taken place, and the “national rollout of a regional funding approach for the Domestic Abuse Services Grant (DASG) from 01 April 2018. [..]2017-2018 will be a transitional year and [it will be moving] to a regional funding and commissioning model [in the future].”

National and local strategies

Sections 3-4 of the Act require the Welsh Government to prepare and publish a National Strategy to ’contribute to the aims of  the Act’ no later than 6 months after the Welsh election (i.e. By 6 November 2016). Sections 5-8 of the Act require local authorities and local health boards to prepare and publish local strategies by May 2018.

The Committee was “disappointed” that while the Act was passed more than 18 months before the Welsh Government was required to publish the National Strategy, it did not begin consulting on a draft strategy until August, leaving only one month before the deadline for amendments and improvements to be made. Many witnesses told the Committee that they were not satisfied with the draft, and in particular that the views of survivors of abuse had not been taken into account.

As a result, the Cabinet Secretary made the decision to publish a high-level strategy in November 2016, which will be followed by a ‘delivery plan’ detailing how the strategy will be achieved. The Committee was concerned that the delivery plan would not be legally enforceable (unlike the National Strategy), and that no timescales for its publication had been provided.

In addition, the Committee heard that local strategies are beginning to be developed before the delivery plan is published, which could lead to inconsistencies in strategic approaches.

The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:

  • clarify the legal status of the forthcoming delivery plan, which should preferably be issued as statutory guidance to ensure that it can be enforced;
  • outline when the delivery plan will be published, and how it will be consulted upon, and
  • ensure that the ten survivor recommendations contained in the report, Are you listening, am I being heard?, are fully considered during the development of the national survivor engagement framework.

The Welsh Government response states that “the legal status of the Delivery Framework will be considered with a Task & Finish Group, set up by the Advisory Group to develop the plan, with input from the Cross-Governmental officials Group. The Advisory Group will scrutinise the framework before being published” and “the timescale for the publication of the Framework will be determined by the Task & Finish group”.

Education

Section 9 of the Act places a duty on local authorities to report on how they are addressing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence within their education institutions. Section 10 gives Welsh Ministers and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) the power to issue guidance to further and higher education institutions.

Education was a contentious issue during the passage of the Act. The initial White Paper on the legislation from 2012 proposed that the Bill would ensure that education on ‘healthy relationships’ was mandatorily delivered in all schools.

This proposal was not included in the draft Bill. According to the then Minister in charge of the Bill, healthy relationships education was instead being considered as part of the curriculum review led by Professor Graham Donaldson, which would include a review of the basic curriculum including Personal and Social Education (PSE).

The duty in section 9 was introduced as a Government amendment during the passage of the Act.

Both the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children and the Cabinet Secretary for Education told the Committee that the regulations under section 9 would be developed in early 2017. It is not clear when local authorities will be required to start reporting.

The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:

  • commit to including teaching about healthy relationships in the new curriculum under the ‘Health and Well-being’ Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE);
  • expedite the preparation of regulations relating to the publication of information by local authorities on how they are exercising their functions to promote the purpose of the Act. It should also commit to requiring local authorities to begin reporting by the start of the 2017/18 academic year;
  • outline how healthy relationships and consent education will be addressed by further and higher education institutions.

The Welsh Government responded to these recommendations by saying “there may be opportunities to obtain information and data on what education settings within local authorities are currently undertaking with regards to Education provision stemming from the Act from external organisations currently enhancing the delivery of Healthy Relationships in schools”. It goes on to say:

Work on the development of the Health and Wellbeing AoLE will include consideration on approaches to the delivery of Healthy relationships and therefore there is potential that this can be considered as part of the overall work being undertaken.

The Welsh Government noted that in relation to the recommendation about further and higher education bodies, “this will be considered with Higher Education colleagues whilst drawing from projects already in place within Further & Higher Education.”

The National Adviser

Section 20 of the Act requires Welsh Ministers to appoint a National Adviser to provide advice, monitor implementation of the Act and undertake research.

The Committee found that the National Adviser’s role is part-time, meaning that her influence and capacity is limited. It also noted that the Adviser’s work plan was not aligned with the National Strategy, again potentially leading to inconsistencies.

The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:

  • Review of the capacity of the National Adviser role, and consider allocating additional resources to it to support the development of local strategies and undertake research;
  • Clarify what sanctions are available to Welsh Ministers if a public authority does not fulfil the requirements of the Act, and
  • Make reference to the National Adviser, her responsibilities and work plan in the forthcoming delivery plan and any future strategies.

The Welsh Government hasdiscussed and considered these recommendations with the National Adviser”, and it has agreed to keep it under review. In terms of powers, the response states that the Welsh Ministers have the power to “direct” an authority to take appropriate action, but does not detail what sanctioning powers are available.

Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2016-17

09 February 2017

Article by Gareth Thomas and David Millett, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government (Mark Drakeford AM) laid the Second Supplementary Budget 2016-17 on 7 February 2017.  This was accompanied by an explanatory note and tables showing departmental allocations.  This supplementary budget amends the First Supplementary Budget 2016-17 approved by the National Assembly in July 2016.

Over two thirds of the revenue allocations in this budget are additional funding to the NHS, including £75.9 million to address forecast overspends by Local Health Boards (£7.5 million of which is in addition to the £68.4 million announced in November 2016), £50 million to mitigate winter pressures, £27 million to fund a shortfall in income from the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme and £16 million to support the launch of the New Treatment Fund

Also, £20 million has been allocated to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to address financial demands from the recommendations of the Diamond Review, £8.5 million to establish Transport Wales to design and let the rail and South Wales Metro franchises, and £4 million to Tata Steel for skills support.

The main capital allocations are £47 million to support trunk road projects (including £22 million for M4 Route Development), £33.4 million capital grants and loans to deliver economic development priorities and £30 million to support the Programme for Government commitment to build an additional 20,000 affordable homes.

These investments are funded by a mixture of allocations from reserves and funds carried over from the previous financial year, and also takes account of changes in funding from the UK Government.

Changes in overall budget allocations, and in allocation of fiscal revenue and capital expenditure between different Welsh Government departments between the previous Supplementary Budget and this one, are summarised in the accompanying chart.

Infographic showing key allocations in the Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2016-17

National Endowment for Music

08 February 2017

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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violin_landscape

Image from Flickr by Jason Hollinger. Licensed under Creative Commons.

On 14 February 2017, Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education will make a statement in Plenary on the establishment of the National Endowment for Music.

Background

There have long standing concerns about funding pressures for non-statutory, local authority music education services. In March 2015, the then Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis, established a Music Services Task and Finish Group. The Group, looked at  music service delivery; charging policies, musical instrument supply and partnership working.  The Group also considered issues around resourcing the future development of music education in Wales, and the potential for a National Endowment for Music.  The Group recommended that:

The Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Government should investigate the possibility and parameters for the establishment of a National Endowment for Music to develop the opportunities for young people to realise their possibilities through music skills and talents. The research should look at the model for such an endowment and its resourcing, including the potential for a voluntary ticket levy, and Ministers should receive a report on initial feasibility within six months.

The then Minister accepted the recommendations in October 2015. Trio Consulting was commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales to undertake a feasibility study on the establishment of the endowment. The report was presented to the previous Minister for Education and Skills and Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism in December 2015.

What can we expect?

In his written evidence to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on 14 September 2016, [PDF 241KB] Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure said that in partnership with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Arts Council for Wales, the Welsh Government were considering the establishment of  a permanent endowment fund for music.

The aim is to build-up a fund of £20 million or more. In time, it could yield up to a £1 million per year to support young people to develop their skills and talents in music. Achieving this target is possible, albeit it will be very challenging, so the fund will need to attract funds from various public and private sector sources.

We are consulting a range of potential partners and beneficiaries, to ensure we have an effective plan for creating and sustaining this new body.

In March 2015, Huw Lewis and Ken Skates, then Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, jointly commissioned a task and finish group to look the future of the National Ensembles.  The group’s report, Securing a sustainable future for the national youth arts ensembles of Wales [PDF 825KB] (January 2016) made recommendations for the Welsh Government, Arts Council, local authorities, and National Youth Arts Wales (NYAW)  – the umbrella body for the ensembles.

One recommendation was that a remodelled National Youth Arts Wales and the Welsh Government should fully explore the potential for NYAW to become a key beneficiary of the National Endowment.

The announcement will clearly be of interest to all those involved in music in Wales and for the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee who are conducting an inquiry into funding and access to music education.

Initial Teacher Education is changing: Assembly to vote on giving Education Workforce Council responsibility for accreditation.

08 February 2017

Article by Joe Champion, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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Assembly Members recently voted to extend the number of professions who had to register with the Education Workforce Council (EWC) and set the fees for that registration. Having approved those regulations, Members will now vote on the Education Workforce Council (Accreditation of Initial Teacher Training) (Additional Functions) (Wales) Order 2017 (the Order), on 14 February 2017.

The Order will expand the remit of the EWC to make it responsible for accrediting initial teacher education (ITE) programmes in Wales. It will also give the EWC responsibility for monitoring the ITE programmes, with a view to withdrawing accreditation from programmes it deems to be uncompliant with its accreditation criteria. This, alongside some of the other changes set out below, is intended to raise standards in the sector. The Welsh Government consulted on the new powers for the EWC, alongside a draft version of the criteria to be used in ITE accreditation, in autumn 2016.

Current and proposed systems of Initial Teacher Education

Granting the EWC the power to produce accreditation criteria and award accredited status to initial teacher education (ITE) programmes is part of a wider shake up of the system. At present ITE is currently provided from three centres in Wales:

  • North and Mid Wales centre: Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities;
  • South East Wales centre: Cardiff Metropolitan University and University of South Wales; and
  • South West Wales centre: University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.

These centres were funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), who also set the accreditation criteria. Estyn currently inspects ITE provision in Wales to ensure its quality and compliance with the requirements for ITE. The latest Estyn inspections for the centres found:

  • South West Wales Centre’s current performance was adequate, while its prospects for improvement were good in 2012;
  • South East Wales Centre’s current performance was adequate, but its prospects for improvement were unsatisfactory in 2013; and
  • North and Mid Wales Centre’s current performance was unsatisfactory as were its prospects for improvement in 2015.

As a result of this, and other reports which were critical of the sector, the Welsh Government decided a change was needed. Foremost amongst these was Professor John Furlong’s Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers report. You can read our blog on the Furlong Report here.

The recent draft accreditation criteria consultation proposed the creation of a Teacher Education Accreditation Committee (TEAC), which would be based within the EWC. The Welsh Government proposed that the TEAC would comprise ‘members of the profession, experts in the field of initial teacher education, a practising or very recent head teacher and a representative of Estyn’ and it ‘would be responsible for accrediting all programmes of initial teacher education’ in Wales. In the explanatory memorandum that accompanies the Order, the Welsh Government estimates that:

The Accreditation of Initial Teacher Training Committee will require initial start-up costs of £260,000 and will be paid over two financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The consultation document also highlighted the Welsh Government’s intention that all future ITE programmes will be led by ‘partnerships’ made up of a Higher Education Institute (HEI) and a number of ‘lead partnership schools’. It is anticipated that the ‘HEI together with all of their partner schools – must take joint responsibility for their contributions to the programme’.

Under the partnership system proposed in the consultation HEFCW will retain responsibility for administering funds for teacher training. Estyn will undertake inspections of ITE provision every five years, ideally one year prior to a partnership’s re-accreditation with the TEAC, so that inspection reports can feed into the accreditation exercise. Estyn’s inspections will be undertaken using a revised inspection framework and guidance that explicitly takes into account the TEAC’s accreditation criteria.

The explanatory memorandum to the Order clarifies the Welsh Government’s expected timescale for the reform of ITE, and is replicated below.

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A voice of opposition

The Welsh Government’s summary of responses to the ITE Accreditation consultation stated that:

For many it seemed a logical step for the Education Workforce Council (EWC) to have responsibility for accrediting programmes of ITE and establishing a Teacher Education Accreditation Committee (TEAC). Respondents from the Teaching Councils of Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland said this was in line with statutory arrangements they have had for a number of years.

However, the NASUWT union, in a paper submitted as part of a Children, Young People and Education committee consultation on teachers’ professional learning and education, noted that:

The EWC in its current form is not an appropriate body to take on the statutory responsibility for accrediting all programmes of ITE in Wales.

The NASUWT has argued that the EWC would need to demonstrate that it can act coherently, consistently and equitably in relation to its existing responsibilities, before additional functions are allotted to it.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) paper to the same consultation also noted that it was:

…concerned about the configuration and remit of the EWC. Currently the Council is made up of people appointed by Ministers. We strongly believe there should be no more ‘mission creep’ or an extension of the remit of the EWC until it includes members elected from all the education unions.

The Welsh Government, in the draft criteria consultation, argue that:

Enhancing the role of the EWC, will enable the education profession to exercise a collective voice; both in policy making and leading the improvements in standards and the process of change. A committee of the EWC could include a range of stakeholders, including representation from the teaching profession itself. It would also be well placed to provide leadership and coordination for teacher education on a national level, while at the same time being at arm’s length from the Welsh Government.

 

What type of youth service does Wales want? Assembly Members to debate Committee report

02 February 2017

Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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Group of young people sitting at a cafe, with mobiles and tablets, top view

On Wednesday (8 February 2017), Assembly Members will debate the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report of its inquiry into the effectiveness of the Welsh Government’s strategy and policies in respect of youth work: What type of youth service does Wales want? (PDF 1.11MB).

The Committee concluded that a ‘radical approach’ is needed to address an ‘alarming decline’ in youth services across Wales. It made 10 recommendations to the Welsh Government on how it should deliver the youth service that people in Wales want.

The Committee’s inquiry focused primarily on:

  • Young people’s access to youth services;
  • The effectiveness of the Welsh Government’s strategy and policy on youth work; and
  • Funding for youth work from local authorities, the Welsh Government, the European Union and the third sector.

Over 1,500 young people submitted their views to the Committee and their clear message was: when youth work provision disappears from a young person’s life, the impact is considerable. The Committee also heard from stakeholders working with young people. Here is what they had to say: six minute video.

What does youth work look like today?

The Committee heard that financial pressures have had a serious impact on youth work over recent years. Welsh Government statistics show that the total amount of expenditure which local authorities budget for youth services has reduced by almost 25% over the last four years. There has also been a decrease in the proportion of young people registered as accessing youth work provision from 20% in 2013-14 to 17% in 2015-16. The Committee described this as an ‘alarming downward trend’.

The Committee heard the outlook for the voluntary sector is seen with no more optimism, with the Council for Wales Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS) reporting that 30% of its members were unsure about their financial future.

The Welsh Government’s launched its National Youth Work Strategy for Wales in February 2014, intending to set the direction for youth work organisations for the following years until 2018. The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies explained (PDF 662 KB) that the strategy seeks to maximise the role and contribution of youth work provision to young people’s engagement and success in their mainstream education.

The Committee considered the extent to which the capacity in the voluntary and statutory sector is maximised, concluding that:

There needs to be an urgent and radical intervention on the part of the Minister if he is to deliver his ambitious vision of a truly open access, bilingual provision. He must also address the lack of strategic and joint working between the statutory and voluntary sector, which the Committee believes is a significant barrier to delivering a universal youth work offer.

What role should the Welsh Government take?

The Committee recommended the Welsh Government reviews its National Youth Work Strategy and refreshes the existing Extending Entitlement statutory guidance, which was issued in 2002. The Minister told the Committee that the current strategy is being reviewed, the findings of which will be published in Spring 2017. He said this would form the basis of a new strategy from 2018 and work to refresh the statutory guidance.

Evidence submitted to the inquiry by stakeholders showed they believe there is a lack of leadership and strategic direction from the Welsh Government. The Minister’s views on the current state of youth work in Wales differed considerably to those of the local government Principal Youth Officers Group and CWVYS. The Committee called on the Minister to work with these organisations, ‘harnessing their expertise and understanding’ to make progress on improving youth work provision.

What type of youth service does Wales want?

Many of the contributors to the Committee’s inquiry called for a new national body to be established to drive forward youth work policy and implementation across both the statutory and voluntary sectors. These stakeholders believed a national model would, as the Committee’s report puts it, ‘enable better collaborative processes, reduce duplication across the sectors, raise the status and profile of youth work, enable workforce development’ and ‘maximise the available resources for the benefit of young people’.

Alun Davies AM told the Committee he does not intend to ‘nationalise’ youth services or seek to deliver them centrally from Cardiff Bay. He said he would decide on a future model for youth work provision in early 2017. However, he added:

Overwhelmingly, my view remains that this is a matter for local government to take these decisions and not a matter for a Minister to intervene in. (…)

The Committee has recommended that the Welsh Government introduce a national model for youth work, encompassing both statutory and voluntary provision.

In its report, the Committee expressed concern about a ‘lack of accountability’ for how local authorities use the funds which are nominally allocated for youth services within the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) but are not hypothecated for that purpose. In response to a question about the possibility of setting outcomes for local authorities as a condition of funding, the Minister said:

Setting outcomes by local authority area—I’m happy to consider that. (…)

I’m more attracted by the concept of outcomes than I am by hypothecation … If we are going to look at a national outcomes framework, then perhaps how we break that down into local areas could be something we could look at.

The Committee has recommended that the Welsh Government develop an accountability framework for local authorities’ use of funds for youth work via the RSG, including sanctions if these are not delivered.

The Welsh Government’s response

The Welsh Government’s response (PDF 293KB) has been published today (2 February 2017). The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies, has accepted 5 of the recommendations and accepted the other 5 in principle.

How to watch the debate

Assembly Members’ debate on the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report is scheduled for around 4.00pm in Plenary on Wednesday 8 February 2017. It can be watched on SeneddTV and a transcript will be available on the Assembly’s Record of Proceedings.