THE Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, today announced that VAWDASV (violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence) services in Wales are set to receive an additional £1.5m in revenue to help them respond to increased demands on services as a result of Covid-19.
The new funding is in addition to the existing £5.25m announced in this year’s budget and will aim to help VAWDASV service providers to cope with an expected spike in demand once lockdown measures are lifted.
The Welsh Government will work with VAWDASV partners and specialist providers to allocate funding on a needs-led basis, and in the simplest and quickest way possible. The following areas will be prioritised for support:
Helping VAWDASV service providers to prepare for and meet additional demand for support as lockdown measures are eased, including taking precautions against the spread of Covid-19
Support for children and young people suffering domestic abuse
Staff training to provide cover for members of staff who are shielding, and to meet increased staffing needs due to demand
Services to support behavioural change in perpetrators of abuse
Additional resources to reduce backlogs and free up capacity for those needing urgent support
The Minister also launched the next phase of the ‘Home shouldn’t be a place of fear’ campaign to support victims and survivors of domestic abuse through lockdown and beyond.
Around 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men, experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. It is impossible to measure the scale of abuse taking place during lockdown, but there is strong evidence to suggest it’s on the rise.
Visits to the Live Fear Free website have increased by 144% in the last month and there were 1,683 homepage visits made in April compared with 690 in March.
There is a definite link between life pressures – for example economic hardship, fears about employment, and the frustration arising from current lockdown restrictions – and abuse, though there is never an excuse.
During lockdown, calls to domestic abuse helplines have changed significantly, becoming more complex, and more lengthy (now nearly twice the 3.18 minute pre-Covid-19 average). Services are beginning to hear from victims who tell them that once lockdown is over they intend to leave their abusers.
Jane Hutt said:
“I’m delighted to announce this new funding, which will help those who have been suffering control, manipulation, harassment, physical and sexual abuse as well as violence, and who badly need support.
“We know that domestic abuse has been made much worse by being stuck at home with your abuser during lockdown. As lockdown measures ease, I hope that it will become easier and safer for victims and survivors to access the support they need
“Home shouldn’t be a place of fear. If you’re experiencing control at home, or are concerned about someone, I want you to know that you are not alone. Help is available from the Live Fear Free helpline, 24 hours a day.”
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:
“This is an incredibly difficult time for so many people, but it is particularly difficult for those who are facing a greater risk of abuse during lockdown. It is alarming to see the rapid rise in calls for help, although sadly it is not unexpected.
“I have protected this funding as a priority during the Covid-19 crisis to retain and enhance vital services across the sector, to bolster their resilience and ensure they are able to provide urgent support to those that need it.”
CEO of Welsh Women’s Aid, Sara Kirkpatrick, said:
“Welsh Women’s Aid warmly welcome the news of this £1.575 million for the sector, which will assist specialist services in continuing to provide lifesaving and life-changing support to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
“We are delighted that this revenue will be focused on supporting the priority areas highlighted by our members, both directly to Welsh Government, and via the VAWDASV Covid-19 Strategic Group.
“This funding is especially critical right now – reflecting on global evidence, we can expect to see the number of survivors who are able and wanting to access support surge as lockdown measures ease across the country. It is vitally important that services are able to meet the needs of all survivors who need help.”