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

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

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.

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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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Slimmed down Gender-based violence Bill to be debated by Assembly

25 November 2014

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Since its introduction in June, the Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill has had a rough ride in the Assembly.

It began life in 2012 with a White Paper consultation on legislation to end violence against women, which was hailed as ‘ground-breaking’ by the Welsh Government and welcomed by stakeholders.  The proposals were intended to strengthen leadership, improve education and awareness, and strengthen and integrate services.

However, when the Bill was introduced to the Assembly in July, the name had changed, the education section had been dropped, the definitions had altered, and the duties on local authorities had become part of guidance. Campaigners publicly expressed their disappointment with the slimmed down Bill, saying that it did not focus on the primary victims of such abuse. They also criticised the lack of education and guaranteed access to services.

The primary elements of the Bill (as introduced) are:

  • the duty to prepare and report on national strategies;
  • the duty to prepare and report on local strategies;
  • the power for Ministers to issue statutory guidance and the duty to follow such guidance;
  • appointment of a Ministerial Adviser on gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

gbv engThe Assembly’s Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee has been scrutinising the Bill since July, beginning with a round table stakeholder event. The Committee also heard oral evidence from the then Minister in charge of the Bill, Lesley Griffiths AM, a panel of children’s organisations, a panel of academics, panels of women’s and men’s organisations, third and public sector panels, and the current Minister in charge, Leighton Andrews AM.

The Committee also received 90 pieces of written evidence. While respondents in written and oral evidence broadly supported the purpose and intent of the Bill, they told Members that they had major concerns about the content.

In response, the Committee published its stage 1 report on 14 November. It supported the general principles of the Bill, but made twelve recommendations to the Welsh Government to amend the Bill to:

  • use a rights-based approach to ensure a right to services for victims;
  • refer to ‘violence against women’ in the Bill, so that the root causes of violence against women are tackled but that all victims can access services, regardless of gender;
  • provide for compulsory education programmes on healthy relationships;
  • establish minimum standards for local strategies;
  • give the adviser independence from the Welsh Government and the power to conduct investigations;
  • adopt the United Nations definition on ‘violence against women’ and the Home Office definition of ‘domestic violence and abuse’.

Today the Assembly will debate the Committee’s stage 1 report on the Bill.

Violence against women and domestic abuse– what is being done in Wales?

11 February 2014

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

In June 2014, the Welsh Government will introduce legislation to tackle violence against women and domestic abuse to underpin the Right to be Safe strategy, which was published in 2010.

Definitions

Violence against women: The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women 1993 stated that violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women.
The term includes:
 domestic abuse;
 rape and sexual violence, abuse and exploitation;
 stalking and harassment;
 trafficking;
 female genital mutilation;
 forced marriage and
 honour-based violence.

Domestic abuse and violence: There is no statutory definition of domestic abuse and violence, and the term covers a range of behaviour, not all of which is criminal. Historically there have been a number of different ‘official’ definitions.
From 2013, the UK Government’s cross-government definition of ‘domestic violence and abuse’, which is also used by the Welsh Government in the White Paper, is “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.
This can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological; physical; sexual; financial or emotional abuse.”

Prevalence of violence against women

  • Up to three million women across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, stalking, sexual exploitation and trafficking, female genital mutilation (FGM) or so-called ‘honour’-based violence each year.
  • Seven per cent of women and five per cent of men were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse in the last year, equivalent to an estimated 1.2 million female and 800,000 male victims.
  • 404,000 women are victims of sexual offences in England and Wales every year (2.5% of women).
  • 85,000 women are victims of rape in England and Wales every year, which is roughly 2,000 a week.
  • Around one in twenty females (aged 16 to 59) reported being a victim of a serious sexual offence since the age of 16.

Right to be Safe strategy

While the criminal justice elements relating to violence against women and domestic abuse are not devolved, the Welsh Government has responsibility for social welfare, local government, health, housing, education and children’s issues, as well as co-ordinating multi-agency working.

The Welsh Government’s Right to be Safe 6 year strategy for all forms of violence against women and domestic abuse was introduced in 2010. The strategy significantly extended the scope of the 2005 domestic abuse strategy, and addresses four key areas:

  • prevention and raising awareness of violence against women and domestic abuse;
  • providing support for victims and children;
  • improving the responses of criminal justice agencies; improving the response of health services and other agencies.

Legislation

daeOn 26 November 2012, a White Paper consultation on an Ending Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Bill was published, which outlined the policy and legislative proposals.

The proposals focused on three specific areas:

  • stronger leadership across public sector services in Wales that is  independent, provides a strategic overview and can monitor and challenge;
  • better education and awareness from the ‘cradle to the grave’, which includes the public, frontline staff and professionals, and
  • strengthening and integrating services that are consistent, effective and of a quality standard.

Specifically, the White Paper proposes to:

– appoint an ‘Independent Ministerial Adviser for Ending Violence Against Women’ who will have:

  • the power to require information and conduct investigations against agreed quality standards;
  • the ability to contribute to decisions taken on the use or allocation of funding/resources by providing information to Welsh Ministers (i.e providing performance information to inform future funding decisions);

– require public services to collaborate on a local and regional level to develop and implement strategies to reduce violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence based on needs assessment analysis;

– commission an independent review of services for victims;

– ensure that education on ‘healthy relationships is delivered in all schools, and to place a duty on local authorities to identify a regional champion to promote the issue educational settings;

– introduce a National Training Framework to which key public and specialist service providers will pay due regard;

– place various duties on devolved public sector bodies to:

  • contribute to multi-agency fora that are convened to share information and promote the safety of individuals at risk of violence against women, domestic abuse or sexual violence;
  • ask and act’ in relation to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, particularly in housing;
  • provide safe accommodation;
  • have workplace domestic abuse policies for their employees.

 The consultation ended on 22 February 2013, and a summary of the 147 responses was published in September 2013. The Bill is expected to be introduced in June 2014.