Building positive and productive partnerships takes time. Here is how we continued to develop ours in 2021/22:
- We expanded our network of opportunities for survivor input, influence, and empowerment.
- We represented the Welsh VAWDASV sector in policy discussions with local, national, and UK government.
- We advanced essential research and data collection to provide a national picture of VAWDASV in Wales.
Amplifying the voices of survivors
In our mission to combat domestic abuse, we recognize that survivors are not merely beneficiaries but invaluable partners in effecting meaningful change. Their experiences, resilience, and insights are instrumental in shaping our initiatives and policies. By actively engaging with survivors, we not only amplify their voices but also foster a collaborative environment where their contributions are pivotal in driving our organisation’s efforts to empower those affected by VAWDASV. This can be seen in through our Survivor Network, a network for providing survivors who have escaped abusive situations with vital support from peers, as well as enabling them to take part in a range of activities.
This year we actively engaged over 100 survivors through our survivors network.
We want to make sure our work is informed by the lived experience of survivors, which is why survivors in the Survivor Network have the opportunity to respond to policy and research consultations. This year they gave their input into over 10 consultations, on issues ranging from unwanted contact from prisoners, Clare’s Law and coercive control involving companion animals. They also took part in research with The Disability Trust to examine brain injuries in the context of domestic abuse.
The Survivors Network aims to have a wide-reaching impact on those who are part of it. Its power lies in its transformative potential, encouraging individuals who have overcome domestic abuse to not only find support and understanding but also contribute to a collective force that advances healing and positive change. This is why in 2022/23, we worked with Careers Wales to offer survivors free training to progress into the workplace. This programme was designed to support the Survivor Network participants, especially those with any language barriers. We are delighted to see that 3 of our SN members have taken up roles within the sector, as well as others deciding to become charity trustees elsewhere.
The promotion of the Network has been key to its success, with our Survivor Engagement Officer and SN members attending community events to achieve this. We want everyone to see the important work they undertake as they promote it nationally and internationally, from events with the Polish community and Fighting with Pride members within Wales, to WAVE conferences in Prague to speak with a Latvian Survivors Group. Our workshop ‘Engaging with Survivors’ which was delivered to survivors and professionals from 37 countries emphasised this, as they were shown our Survivor Toolkit that encourages survivor participation worldwide.
Representing the Welsh sector perspective
Engaging with both the UK and Welsh government is paramount to our end objective of ending VAWDASV. By actively participating in these dialogues, we not only represent the sector’s interests, but we can also ensure that the unique insights gained from frontline experience are integrated into policymaking. We want the voices from the Welsh VAWDASV sector to be instrumental in shaping legislative frameworks that can help address the nuanced challenges that VAWDASV poses. We continue to provide insight as we engage in key meetings across the nation, from the Home Office VAWG Stakeholder Group to the VAWDASV Strategy Meeting.
There has been unprecedented concern across the VAWDASV sector that numerous economic, social, and political factors are intersecting to create ‘a perfect storm’ which has been severely hindering service delivery. This is why this year, instead of our annual State of the Sector report, we produced a report that highlights how Covid-19, Brexit, high service demand, the cost-of-living crisis and a lack of sustainable funding are impacting frontline workers and those who need our specialist support. This sector has been existing on extremely limited resources and stretched capacity before this year, but the sharp rise in inflation and the evolving political contexts of a post Covid-19 and Brexit landscape could threaten to bring the sector into an irreversible decline.
Supporting ethical, Wales-focused research
Good, reliable data is the cornerstone of any effective intervention to support those affected by VAWDASV. It provides us with the necessary insights into the demographics, locations, reasons and modes of violence, enabling targeted strategies and tailored solutions. Accurate data from our member organisations and from the Live Fear Free helpline can provide a holistic perspective on what VAWDASV in Wales looks like, which in turn can empower us and others to implement evidence-based practices. The data we collect is used by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Public Health Wales (PHW), the Wales Violence Prevention Unit (VPU), Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) and other national and international bodies.
We advocate for ethical VAWDASV research to ensure the protection, dignity, and wellbeing of participants, who we know may have experience trauma. We understand that upholding ethical standards in research not only safeguards the rights of those involved but also enhances the credibility and reliability of the findings, which is why we have supported over 30 researchers this year. The researchers have been from Wales and across the UK, and include academics from the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of South Wales, and many more. As part of this, we support students with recruitment, access to data, and provide guidance on conducting ethical research projects with survivors and stakeholders from the sector. Subsequently, we have cascaded the relevant research requests on to member organisations, partners, and key contacts to join up the VAWDASV research landscape across Wales.
This year we have been examining how our member services collect and report on data, in order to identify best practice and support members to maintain ideal data recording. Our project, which has aimed to collaborate with members and assist their migration to a new data management system, has been made possible due to a bursary funded by CAF. The new data collection system (OASIS) will support superior data gathering and produce better intelligence for the state of the sector reports and national data sets.