Welsh Women’s Aid response to expert-led review announcement from Welsh Government

Today, the Welsh Government First Minister announced that Wales Centre for Public Policy will lead on an “expert-led review into refuge provision and sexual violence services in Wales to transform the support provided to victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse.”

As the national umbrella body in Wales we work to support and provide a voice for specialist services, and to bring an end to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence in Wales. So we look forward to working with Welsh Government and others to ensure that any national review leads to tangible action that benefits survivors of abuse.

We have already provided successive evidence to Government and commissioners so that they better understand the benefit and impact of independent specialist services. Specialist services must deliver support within the existing framework of quality standards for sexual violence, domestic abuse and violence against women services in Wales. These national standards are evidence-based, and provide a quality mark for services that deliver needs-led, trauma-informed and gender-responsive support in local communities.

Specialist services’ and survivor’s voices and experiences must be central to any process aimed at transforming provision in Wales. Yet survivors have repeatedly told us what they want from specialist services and from funders, including what type of provision would benefit them in their local area.[1] We must not only listen to those who are experts by experience, we also have a duty to act on their recommendations.

One size or model does not fit all survivors’ needs. Our national network of domestic abuse and sexual violence services, many of which are small and medium-sized dedicated specialist services delivering high-quality support in their local communities, tell us that any review of provision must recognise this diversity in services. This includes the vital need for specialist services ‘by and for’ women and Black and minority women.

Most services in Wales have over four decades of providing life-saving and life-changing support in local communities. They are centres of excellence, not only in supporting survivors but also in delivering training, education and prevention work, including work with perpetrators. Yet the majority face increasing pressure to deliver with fewer resources and manage increasing waiting-lists.

To truly transform specialist services for survivors in Wales, we essentially need a greater focus on provision – or redistribution – of sustainable resources over a number of years. This is a commitment in Wales’ national strategy which we are yet to see be delivered on the ground.

So commissioning a review to transform services, whilst welcome, cannot replace the need for action to sustain and capacity-build locally delivered provision. It’s essential that no one is turned away from independent dedicated specialist support, and that all survivors of abuse – adults and children – have equal access to support which meets their needs, whenever and wherever they need help.

[1] Are you listening and am I being heard? Survivor Consultation: A report of the recommendations made by survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, to inform the national strategy in Wales, (March 2016). Welsh Women’s Aid