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Wales: report on survivors’ consultation

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Welsh Woemn's Aid, consultation, domestic abuse, Focus groups' answers to inform the National Strategy in Wales.Focus groups’ answers to inform the National Strategy in Wales.

Between January and March 2016, women and men who had recently experienced domestic abuse, sexual violence or other forms of violence against women were invited to attend focus groups throughout Wales.

These groups were organised by Welsh Women’s Aid and led by an independent facilitator, in partnership with specialist services.

The abuse or violence included rape and sexual violence, domestic abuse, forced marriage, so-called ‘honour’ crimes, female genital mutilation (FGM), stalking, trafficking, sexual harassment and exploitation.

The 66 survivors who participated were asked about their recent experience of using services, their recommendations for improving service responses, and priorities for the national strategy in relation to prevention, protection and support.

The result is ‘A Survivor Consultation: to inform the National Strategy in Wales’.

This consultation also involved testing out a model in which survivors empower and educate services (seeds), and their views on this and other approaches to continued survivor engagement in Wales were sought.

The survivors then made a number of recommendations which have been used in the development of a new national strategy on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

They also made recommendations for improvements in specific agencies, and provided feedback on what they felt should be the priorities for the National Adviser.

And they also showed overwhelming support for a sustainable model of consultation and engagement.

They all wanted to ensure that survivors’ voices and experiences remain central to government and local action to improve prevention, protection and provision of support services throughout Wales.

An overview of all the recommendations made by survivors is contained in Chapter 5 of the report.

Survivors also identified 10 key recommendations for priority inclusion in the updated national strategy, to be enacted by the Welsh government:

1 – Dedicated specialist services for children and young people impacted by or experiencing domestic abuse, sexual violence, FGM, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or harassment to be available in every area.

2 – Specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services for survivors that are accessible and resourced to meet the needs of specific survivor groups to be available in every area.

3 – Improved awareness of and response to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence by professionals involved in the family justice system – such as CAFCASS Cymru, judges and court personnel, and contact centres – and safe child contact with parents/carers following separation in cases of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

4 – Accessible ‘refuge service’ support in every area, accompanied by safe, affordable, longer-term housing options for survivors of abuse, that provide flexibility, choice and meet survivors’ needs.

5 – Women’s groups and peer support to be available in every area, to reduce isolation and maximise independent spaces that increase confidence, esteem and empowerment.

6 – Protection and support for all survivors who have no recourse to public funds, to ensure equal access to safety, support, protection and justice and finances to live independently, irrespective of survivors’ immigration and residency status.

7 – Counselling and therapeutic services for survivors that is available in every area, when needed, is age-appropriate, and helps build resilience and helps recovery from abuse.

8 – A greater focus on stopping perpetrators’ behaviour and holding them to account by public services, and where violence and abuse involves coercive control, action by public services to ensure perpetrators leave and end abusive relationships.

9 – Improved training for all services on all aspects of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, informed by survivors’ experiences.

10 – Preventing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence from happening in the first place, through compulsory prevention education in all schools and colleges, increasing awareness of the issues and the help available in local communities across Wales.

Survivors were concerned that there could be a delay in delivering improved interventions in the short-term, and therefore recommended that the National Adviser ensures that both the government and public authorities took action to deliver improvements in the following areas: media and publicity campaigns; education; immigration; sustainable funding for specialist services; family and criminal courts and the development of a sustainable model for future survivor engagement.

In Wales in 2013/14, there were 6,325 prosecutions of violence against women and girls offences, with a conviction rate of 76.7 per cent.

Of these, 5,637 were cases of domestic abuse; 257 cases of rape, and 431 cases of sexual offences.

The costs of violence and abuse to the economy are also significant.

Domestic abuse alone costs Wales £303.5million annually: £202.6million in service costs and £100.9million to lost economic output.

These figures do not include any element of human and emotional costs, which research estimates cost Wales an additional £522.9million.

The cost to public purse is considerably higher when other forms of violence against women are included, like sexual violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking, harassment and sexual exploitation

In addition to strengthening the legislative and policy framework on addressing all forms of violence against women in Wales, the Welsh government has also introduced relevant parallel legislation including the Well-Being of Future Generations Act 2015.

The aim there is to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, by making public bodies think more about the long-term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach.

To read the full consultation report, click here.

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