Violence against women and girls – Welsh Government assessment
There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections but very limited evidence of sustained improvements in the enjoyment of human rights on this issue
The introduction of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 (the VAWDASV Act) and the national strategy on VAWDASV are welcome steps. However, final national indicators for the VAWDASV Act are not yet in place, governance and accountability mechanisms need to be strengthened, and progress on implementing the national strategy has stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Violence against women and girls remains a significant issue in Wales. Reports of domestic abuse increased during the pandemic, and victims struggle to access specialist support.
- There has been an increase in police-recorded domestic abuse in Wales over the last five years.
- The pandemic has seen an increase in reports of domestic abuse in the UK. In Wales, visits to the national helpline Live Fear Free website’s homepage increased from 690 in March 2020 to 1,683 in April 2020. There was also a large increase in demand for support services in Wales between April and June 2020, with a 41% increase in the number of survivors supported and a 59% increase in the number of new referrals compared with the same period in 2019.
- A review of the Welsh Government’s progress in implementing the VAWDASV Act by the Welsh Audit Office in November 2019 concluded that survivors ‘are often let down by an inconsistent, complex and fragmented system’.
- While the Welsh Government published a first set of national indicators for the VAWDASV Act in June 2019, plans to produce a final set of national indicators by summer 2020 were delayed by the pandemic, meaning such indicators are not yet in place.
- In 2020, the Wales Centre for Public Policy published a report on domestic abuse interventions in Wales, finding that while governance and accountability measures have improved, they still do not meet the requirements of the VAWDASV Act, and that greater local-level leadership and national-level accountability mechanisms are needed.
- Welsh national advisers on VAWDASV noted progress in all streams of work to implement the national strategy on VAWDASV during 2019–20, but highlighted that the pandemic had stalled progress on implementation in 2020–21.
- In 2019–20, 671 survivors could not be supported by refuge-based specialist services, mostly because of lack of capacity and resources to provide a service.
- The Welsh Government has failed to develop a sustainable funding strategy for survivor services and the pandemic has increased the sector’s concern over this issue.
- It is estimated that 77% of children and young people who experienced domestic abuse in 2018 received no specialist support.
- Despite the allocation of additional funding to support the sector in responding to the pandemic, there are still concerns that certain groups – including ethnic minority, migrant and disabled women – face particular barriers to accessing specialist support services.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on violence against women and girls.