The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 was passed in March 2015.
The aim of the Act is to improve the public sector response to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. It intends to give public authorities (such as councils and health boards) a strategic focus on the issue, and to ensure the consistent provision of preventative, protective and supportive services.
The Act is internationally recognised as a ground-breaking piece of legislation. If it is implemented successfully, it should lead to real improvements in the protection and support for survivors and, ultimately, the prevention of abuse.
Photo credit: Amy Dianna, "White Ribbon Day", Flickr
The main findings of the inquiry were that:
- The pace and consistency of the Act’s implementation has been slow in some areas. The publication of statutory guidance has been delayed. There were concerns about resources and potential increased demand for services, and how the Act’s requirements align with other legislation;
"Awareness and understanding of the Act and its requirements remain inconsistent across the public service in Wales.”
- The Welsh Government took 18 months to prepare its national strategy, and consulted on it two months before it was required by the Act to be published. The Committee was disappointed that the preparation of the strategy was not undertaken sooner, and considers that the strategy would have been more ambitious and robust if it had been planned better;
"I believe, we can deliver a very high level overarching-principle strategy that meets the legislation requirements, but actually the detail of delivery will be in the delivery plan underneath that. I think that’s a way of getting through the legal challenge of not delivering the strategy at the appropriate time."
- Teaching about healthy relationships is key to the prevention of abuse and violence. It should be included in the curriculum and be taught in all schools. More needs to be done to address teaching about healthy relationships in colleges and universities;
“When you’ve left school, you’ve ingrained a lot of these societal problems and a lot of these unhealthy attitudes towards sex and relationships, and by then it’s too late to give sex and relationships education that’s inclusive and expect that to change everything.
So, what we need is education that is targeted at changing societal attitudes”.
- The capacity, resources and influence of the National Adviser need to be reviewed.
“When I look at my annual plan, there are differences [.] as to what nationally may be priorities. [..] without resources, how can some of that work be driven forward when [..] there are no resources allocated to the adviser”.
After listening to these views, the Committee made a number of recommendations to the Welsh Government, covering four broad themes:
1. Pace and consistency of implementation
The Committee was concerned that the pace of implementation of the Act has, in some areas, been slow. We recommend that the Welsh Government’s forthcoming delivery plan should provide detailed actions and timescales for outstanding guidance, regulations and other commitments.
2. National and local strategies
The Committee recommends that, as a matter of urgency, the Welsh Government should clarify the legal status of the forthcoming delivery plan, outline when it will be published, and how it will be consulted upon. We also recommend that the ten survivor recommendations from the recent Welsh Women’s Aid research are fully considered during the development of the national survivor engagement framework.
The Committee recommends that the Welsh Government should commit to including teaching about healthy relationships in the new curriculum, and outline how healthy relationships and consent education will be addressed by colleges and universities.
4. National Adviser
The Committee recommends that the Welsh Government should review the capacity of the National Adviser’s role, and consider allocating additional resources to it for research and supporting the development of local strategies.