Welsh Women’s Aid response to Domestic Abuse Bill – January 2019

A cautious welcome but disappointed it lacks ambition to ensure no woman is left behind.

Welsh Women’s Aid welcomes the publication of Domestic Abuse Bill today (Monday 21 January 2019), 18 months after it was first promised by Westminster Government, and the accompanying announcements about funding for some services, and research into the cost of domestic abuse.

Eleri Butler, CEO of Welsh Women’s Aid said:

“After decades of legislation, strategies and initiatives across Wales and England, the cost of domestic abuse per victim is staggeringly high at £34,000, whilst the social cost of domestic abuse in 2016-17 is £66 billion. This exceeds that caused by substance misuse, smoking and obesity combined, and tells us the state and public services must do much better if we are to create any lasting change.

“By investing a small portion of the amount domestic abuse costs society into specialist services and their delivery of early intervention and prevention work – like Welsh Women’s Aid ‘Change that Lasts’ programme which offers a blueprint to prevent violence against women in Wales – we could deliver a whole system response to ending violence against women that really makes a difference.

“We welcome inclusion of proposals which we called for following our consultation in Wales. These include greater recognition of economic abuse, making breach of protection orders a criminal offence, orders that will require perpetrators’ attendance at behaviour-change programmes, a presumption of special measures to better safeguard victims in court, and banning perpetrators cross-examining victims in family courts.

“We also welcome a greater focus on training police and other public services. We already offer a dedicated training programme on domestic and sexual abuse for Welsh justice system professionals, informed by survivors’ experiences and delivered by experts based in Wales. We also deliver the Welsh Government’s “Ask and Act” training for devolved services, like housing and social services.

“But the Bill lack ambition. Relatively few women impacted by abuse choose to access state services. At the same time, specialist services in Wales, which survivors tell us best meet their needs, are struggling to meet demand. So we are disappointed that it fails to include statutory duties to resource specialist services in local communities. As much of these funding arrangements are devolved in Wales, we also urge greater co-operation between both Governments to make sure no-one who needs support is turned away from the Welsh network of specialist services because they lack capacity to respond.

“We are also disappointed that the Bill doesn’t effectively reflect the demand from survivors to include all forms of violence against women and the lived experience of survivors. It is women who disproportionally experience repetitive, escalating violence from partners, live in fear, and are more likely to be killed. It is also women who need support for cumulative violence and abuse including rape, sexual violence and exploitation, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and sexual harassment.

“We are determined in Wales to continue to call on Governments and public services do better. We want to make sure we have systems and services that more effectively meet survivors’ needs, and a response to violence that works for all women, because if we can get it right for those at the margins who face discrimination and hostility when seeking support, all survivors of abuse will benefit. We will continue to advocate our vision for a more bold and ambitious approach so that we can end domestic abuse, sexual violence and all forms of violence against women, for good.”