Violence, abuse and neglect, and child sexual exploitation – Welsh Government assessment
The Welsh Government has taken some positive policy and legislative steps, including a range of actions to address childhood adversity. There is limited available data on rates of violence, abuse and neglect, but available evidence shows that rates of domestic abuse and violence, and recorded sexual offences against children in Wales are still high. Emerging evidence indicates that reports of domestic abuse have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with increasing numbers of calls to abuse helplines.
- Crime survey data for Wales shows that 18.2% of men and 24.9% of women aged 16–74 reported experiencing abuse before the age of 16.
- It is estimated that 138,000 older people in Wales could be experiencing abuse. A lack of disaggregated data and under-reporting makes it difficult to get an accurate picture.
- As a consequence of the pandemic, calls to domestic abuse helplines have risen significantly and in the long term there is likely to be increased demand on already strained specialist support services in Wales.
- In 2020, there were 16,580 children in Wales receiving a care and support plan, with 2,310 of these also on the child protection register.
- In 2019, police in Wales recorded 667 offences of sexual communication with a child in the two-and-a-half years since it became illegal to do so.
- Police-recorded sexual offences against children under 16 have more than doubled in Wales from 33.9 per 10,000 children in 2014–15 to 69.5 per 10,000 children in 2019–20. This is the highest recorded rate in the UK. While it is understood that greater awareness and improved recording have contributed to this rise, it is expected that many incidents of child abuse remain unreported.
- Welsh Women’s Aid has reported that provision of specialist support services for children and young people varies across Wales and that more specialist provision is needed.
- In 2018, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse made recommendations to the Welsh Government, including developing a national policy to train and use chaperones during treatment in children’s healthcare services. The Welsh Government accepted all the recommendations and incorporated them in its 2019 national action plan.
- In 2020, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales recommended that the Welsh Government do more to make early intervention and childhood adversity, including abuse and neglect, a priority across services.
- Findings from a 2021 review of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) policy in Wales noted an awareness of ACEs in many policy areas but that the impact of the ACEs policy on children’s life outcomes is not yet clear.
- While awareness of harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and so-called honour-based violence is increasing, the number of recorded cases is unlikely to truly reflect the number of children at risk. For example, the Public Health Wales FGM health leads reported 271 recorded cases in Wales in the year to March 2018.
- In 2020, the Welsh Government reported on progress in implementing its online safety action plan for children and young people. While most of the actions are ongoing, there has been progress in delivering online safety films for carers and families, and the roll-out of a safeguarding audit tool for schools.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on violence, abuse and neglect, and child sexual exploitation.