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.

Debate on the Final Police Settlement 2017-18

10 February 2017

Article by Sarah Hatherley and Owen Holzinger, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

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Image from Flikr by Jon Candy Licensed under the Creative Commons

Policing policy is not devolved to Wales; however, the Welsh Government delivers an element of the annual funding as part of a three-way system that also involves the Home Office and council tax. Police forces also have access to special and specific grants and other income sources.

Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) replaced police authorities in each police force area (outside of London), with the first elections held in November 2012. More recently, PCC elections were held alongside the Assembly Elections in May 2016. PCCs appoint the chief constable, set local policing priorities and set the budget and council tax precept.

The Police settlement is derived in a two-stage process with a provisional settlement released in line with the Welsh Government’s draft budget and a final settlement in line with the final budget. The four Welsh police forces are consulted on the provisional police settlement, before agreeing the final settlement. The National Assembly for Wales must then approve this funding. As part of this process, the settlement will be debated in plenary on Tuesday 14 February 2017.

Final Police Settlement 2017-18

For 2017-18, the overall funding allocated to PCCs in Wales has been set at £349.9 million. This represents a 1.4% reduction from the 2016-17 settlement and is a 1.4% reduction for each of the four PCCs. The overall funding is outlined in table 1 below:

Table 1: Police Revenue Funding – Total Central Support

2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Dyfed-Powys 53.0 50.3 50.0 49.3
Gwent 76.8 72.9 72.5 71.5
North Wales 77.1 73.2 72.7 71.7
South Wales 169.2 160.6 159.6 157.4
Total   376.2   356.9   354.9   349.9

Within the £349.9 million allocation, the Welsh Government’s element is £138.7 million. This can be broken down further and comprises funding from the Revenue Support Grant (£85.8 million) and Non-domestic rates (£53 million). The remaining £211.2 million funding is provided through the Home Office. The sources of Police funding are outlined below:

Home Office Police Grant

In England and Wales, the main source of income for police forces is the central UK government grant made available through the annual Home Office Police Grant Report. The Home Office Police Grant is general revenue funding and is not ring-fenced. It is paid directly to PCCs. The Police Allocation Formula determines the allocation of central government funds between the 43 police force areas of England and Wales. This is based on the estimated workload of each police force area, including crime related activity, policing special events, policing sparsely-populated areas and population and socio-economic factors. The Home Office has recently reviewed its funding formula for police forces, which will continue to be a needs-based formula. As has been the case in recent years, the Home Office has again decided to overlay its needs-based formula with a floor mechanism. This ensures all police forces in England and Wales can expect to receive the same percentage reduction, this year this is 1.4%.

Funding from the main grant is subject to “damping”, which in 2017-18 will redistribute £12.2 million from South Wales and £417k from Gwent to Dyfed Powys (an additional £5.1 million) and North Wales (an additional £7.4 million). The PCCs for Dyfed-Powys (£3.6 million) and North Wales (£2.4 million) also receive top-up grant.

Welsh Government formula grant/ Police Revenue Settlement

In Wales, the equivalent funding previously provided by the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government in England is devolved to the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government funding to PCCs still forms part of the local government finance settlement and is paid under provisions of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and must be approved by the National Assembly for Wales.

Council tax precept

Each police force can also raise additional revenue funding through council tax precepts. The elected PCC in each police force area determines the annual level of the police precept, which is added to residential council tax bills. A greater proportion of police funding comes from council tax in Wales than in England; 37% compared with an average of 24% in England in 2015-16. There is also much less variation between the Welsh police forces than in England. PCCs are known as major precepting authorities. Whilst they set the precept, the funds are collected on their behalf by local authorities. In 2016-17 the Police element of council tax amounted to approximately 16% of the total, average, council tax bill in Wales.

The Welsh Government has the power to cap excessive council tax rises (generally considered to be anything over 5%).

Specific and special grants

There are also a smaller number of special and specific grants that are ring-fenced for national policing priorities. The Home Office provides a series of specific and special grants in addition to the Police Main Grant. This funding comes from the Home Office resource departmental expenditure limit crime and policing group. Some of the grants are funded by top-slicing the Police Main Grant, that is reducing the funding available for general revenue funding through the Police Main Grant to pay for some specific grants. The largest element of this is the Counter Terrorism Police Grant; other grants include the Police Special Grant and the Police Innovation Fund.

Other income

Police forces can also charge for some of their services. The main source of income from fees and charges is through charging for special police services. These are police services provided over and above core policing at the request of a person or organisations, such as football matches and music concerts. The basic powers to charge for services are set out in the Police Act 1996. Police forces are prevented from making a profit on special police services and for some types of event are prevented from recouping 100% of costs.

More information regarding how each element of police funding is calculated can be found in the Local Government Finance Report (No. 2) 2017-18 (Final Settlement – Police and Crime Commissioners). Welsh Government has published the financial tables and other information regarding the police settlement on their website.

Subject reading lists available on our blog

12 May 2016

National Assembly for Wales Research Service

If you’re trying to get to grips with a brand new subject or wanting to find out the key developments in a policy area then the Research Service subject reading lists could be a great place to start.

The subject reading list compiled by our different subject experts are intended to provide an introductory checklist of key documents and sources of information for those wanting to learn about or keep up to date with a new subject area. The reading lists include links to key policy documents, reports, reviews, websites and other sources of information.

Our current subject reading lists cover the following areas:

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Dyfed Powys police helicopter base to close

03 July 2015

Article by Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image from Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under Creative Commons

The National Police Air Service  has announced that the Dyfed Powys police helicopter base at Pembrey is to close as part of a cost cutting exercise.

On Tuesday 7 July the Assembly will be debating how the Dyfed Powys helicopter ‘provides vital support to public safety in mid and west Wales.’

What is the National Police Air Service?

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) provides air support to all police forces across Wales and England. It was established in 2012 following a review of the approach to police air services.

Under NPAS, the nearest available NPAS aircraft responds to requests from police forces, rather than individual forces owning and operating their own helicopter, as was the case under the previous system.

When NPAS was launched, it was expected to make significant cost savings compared to the previous system. The then Policing Minister, Damian Green MP, said:

This new police led, government-supported scheme will keep 98 per cent of people in England and Wales 20 minutes or less from police air support and will save up to £15 million a year.

In 2011 there were 30 police helicopters operating from 28 bases across Wales and England. NPAS introduced a 22 base model, reducing the number of aircraft to 25, saying that this would actually increase overall aircraft availability (by 8%).

What does the Dyfed Powys helicopter do?

The helicopter can reach any part of the Dyfed Powys area within 40 minutes and assists ground units with:

  • Searches for missing people, suspects and vehicles
  • Casualty evacuation
  • Transporting specialist teams around the force area
  • Gathering intelligence/evidence using aerial photography and video
  • Vehicle pursuits
  • Surveillance

The Dyfed Powys Police website says that the helicopter can search one square mile of land in 12 minutes costing only £140, whereas the same area would take officers on the ground 454 hours to search and cost over £4,500. Also:

Given the fact that the force covers such a vast rural area, and many diverse communities, the helicopter is seen as such vital tool in fighting crime and helping members of these communities.

There’s a video on the website showing the helicopter in action:

In November 2014 the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, announced that he had struck a deal with NPAS so that a helicopter would continue to be based at Pembrey.

Why is the Dyfed Powys base closing?

In February 2015 NPAS announced that it was moving to a 15 base model to make further cost savings. At the time of the announcement there were 23 aircraft in the NPAS fleet, including 19 helicopters.

Two of the bases due to close are in Wales – Pembrey (due to close on 1 January 2016) and Rhuddlan (due to close on 15 September 2015). This will leave two bases in Wales – Hawarden and St Athan.

In making the announcement, the manager of NPAS said:

NPAS needs to find further substantial financial savings with a target of 14% of revenue cuts over the next three years. This is on top of the 23% savings already made.  […]  There is no easy way of doing this and difficult decisions have to be made. […]

This move will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service and mean that every base supports police forces 24 hours a day. It is a move based on an analysis of potential threat, risk and harm to the public we serve.  Part of the move will also see four fixed-wing aircraft form part of the fleet. These will be based out of the East Midlands Airport. Fixed-wing aircraft are cheaper to fly than rotary aircraft [helicopters].

What has been the reaction to the announcement?

Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, said the decision is ‘hugely disappointing’ and that although he supports the objectives of the plan, it ‘shouldn’t happen at the expense of service in rural areas.’ He also said:

… this plan raises real concern about how quickly NPAS can respond to calls in mid-Wales. If it comes into being as proposed, NPAS will be in breach of its obligations under the agreement we have only just signed.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Winston Roddick, has spoken out about the closure of the Rhuddlan base. He said that he’s concerned the decision doesn’t ‘concentrate enough on north Wales’s needs’, and:

NPAS has not taken the time to properly explain the rationale of the new operating model to us and I am therefore exploring whether there is an option to appeal the decision.

An Early Day Motion on the closure of the Pembrey base was tabled in the House of Commons on 23 February 2015. The EDM:

… notes that the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner had a written agreement with the National Police Air Service (NPAS) in November 2014 that the Pembrey base would be retained; expresses concern at the decision by NPAS to close 10 of the current 25 helicopter bases across the UK, including Pembrey; and calls on the Government to intervene to overturn this decision.

 

 

 

The Violence Against Women Act – one year on

30 June 2015

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

It’s been 12 months since the Welsh Government first introduced a Bill to reduce gender-based violence in Wales. On Tuesday 30 June, the Minister for Public Services, Leighton Andrews AM, will make a statement in plenary on its progress.

So what has happened in the last year?

VAWIn March 2015, the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 was passed, after a difficult passage through the Assembly, which included a name change and various concessions on education.

This post details the initial problems the Act faced, and this post outlines how the education provisions in the Act evolved.

The main parts of the Act are:

  • the duty to prepare and report on national strategies;
  • the duty to prepare and report on local strategies;
  • a duty on local authorities to report on how they are addressing gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence within their education institutions, including through sex education;
  • the power for Ministers to issue statutory guidance and the duty to follow such guidance; and
  • appointment of a Violence Against Women Adviser.

Recent news

  • The Welsh Government post of Violence Against Women Adviser (created by the Act) was advertised, but as a part-time role;
  • Welsh Women’s Aid consulted on a Good Practice guide to delivering Whole Education Approaches to Preventing Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence in April;
  • Recent news reports suggest that police training in Gwent is not up to scratch, with many relying on e-learning;
  • Academic research shows violent crime may be 60 per cent higher than previously thought because victims can only record a maximum of five incidents;
  • Last week, the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that 5,124 people were convicted for violence against women and girls in Wales in 2014-15;
  • A UN report on violence against women examining how well the UK responds to violence against women and girls was published in June by UN’s Special Rapporteur Associate Professor Rashida Manjoo. In the report Rashida Manjoo recommends that the UK Government:
    • urgently evaluates the way life-saving women’s support services (including refuges, helplines and BME women’s services) are funded and commits to ensuring that these are made adequate and sustainable;
    • make sex and relationships education compulsory in schools as the fundamental way of ensuring the UK tries to prevent abuse;
    • examine the way legal aid changes are impacting women facing abuse;
    • review the assessment of women asylum seekers’ claims to ensure gender sensitivity; and permit an independent examination of the treatment of women in the Yarls Wood immigration detention centre (she was denied entry to the centre on her visit to the UK).

There is still lots of work to do to implement the Act, from the design of effective healthy relationships education to the training of frontline professionals, and the development of national and local strategies.

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