Domestic Violence

1. Questions to the First Minister – in the Senedd at on 20 February 2024.

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Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

2. What steps is the Government taking to deal with domestic violence? OQ60714

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:33, 20 February 2024

(Translated)

Llywydd, the practical actions to which the Government is committed in dealing with domestic violence are set out in our national strategy. Partners across the private, public and specialist sectors are delivering these actions. Devolved services, and those that are not devolved, have come together in support of this agenda in Wales.

Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru 1:34, 20 February 2024

(Translated)

I thank the First Minister for that response. The statistics from north Wales are shocking. Sixty-five per cent of all crime in north Wales relates to domestic violence. There are more cases of domestic violence and sexual violence in north Wales than in any other part of the UK outside of London. That's why the work of Gorwel is so very important. The First Minister will be aware of Gorwel—a programme by the Cynefin social housing group, which is funded through the housing support grant, and supports those who are suffering domestic violence, among other important work. For every £1 that Gorwel receives, it produces £3.56 in community value. But if the Government doesn't increase the housing support grant, then this programme, and other similar provisions across Wales, will be under threat, and we will see more cases of domestic violence, more demand on police services, and more pressures on health and housing services. Given the importance of this, therefore, is the First Minister willing to commit to ensuring that the housing support grant receives the necessary increase in order to continue with the important work that these providers deliver?

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:35, 20 February 2024

(Translated)

Llywydd, I thank Mabon ap Gwynfor for that question. I'm very aware of the work that Gorwel is doing, of course. As to the figures that the Member has referred to, it's very painful to hear them. But one of the reasons why we have those figures is because agencies such as Gorwel, and others, raise awareness and provide confidence to people to come forward and report incidents to the police, and so forth. As I said in response to Russell George, across the Chamber Members are asking the Government to find more money for a range of things—and important things, of course. But when the funding that we have is not adequate to do everything that we want to do as a Government, there are tough decisions to be made. As I said, the Minister for finance has been listening to everything that the Senedd committees have said through the scrutiny process, and the final budget will come before Members before long.

Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative 1:36, 20 February 2024

First Minister, sadly, domestic violence remains very high, with 7 per cent of women and 3 per cent of men experiencing domestic abuse in the past year, largely unchanged from the previous 12 months. If we are to put an end to domestic abuse and violence, we need to educate potential perpetrators that violence and abuse is never the answer. What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the effectiveness of the Live Fear Free campaign in educating future generations of the impact of domestic violence on victims and society as a whole?

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:37, 20 February 2024

Well, again, Llywydd, I thank the Member for that question. He points to the same dilemma that was there in the original question. The purpose of our programmes in Wales is to persuade more people to come forward and report incidents of domestic violence when these occur. You can then read the success of persuading people to have the confidence that there are services available as a sign that there is more domestic violence than there was in a previous period. I think there is a very plausible argument that we are simply uncovering more of what was already there. And the Live Fear Free helpline, which is there 24 hours a day, every day of the year, is there to give confidence to people who find themselves in these awful circumstances that there is always going to be help available to them. And the fact that there are more calls to the line in some years can be thought of as a success of that effort, rather than a sign that things are getting worse. We have just to be careful about the way that we interpret those figures.

Where I absolutely agree with what both Members have said is that those figures are far, far too high, and that there is a huge amount to be done in education, in providing services, both to survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence, to get to the sort of Wales that we want to be, where people don't live in fear of what might happen to them inside their own homes.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour 1:39, 20 February 2024

I'm really glad to hear the First Minister give a shout-out to the Live Fear Free helpline. It's timely because, whilst we've heard today that violence against women and girls is still a major problem right across society, in all parts of Wales and all types of domestic settings, we also see a rise in violence around that time of major sporting events, including of course the six nations rugby championship. Now, part of the solution to this has to be the high-profile support of our rugby institutions and our rugby clubs, including the Welsh Rugby Union, of course, but also clubs like the fantastic Ospreys, who've done promotions on this themselves—and they had a great result on the weekend, by the way, against Ulster, which we all commend—but all of our regional clubs, also our local clubs too, who have such a role to play and such an influence to make in championing the campaign against domestic violence and abuse. So, would he join me in calling for everyone to cheer on Wales on the weekend, when they've got a mountain to climb in Dublin, though we're used to scaling mountains, of course, in Wales, and calling on everyone in the rugby family to speak out against domestic violence and abuse?

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:40, 20 February 2024

Well, I thank Huw Irranca-Davies for that. Of course, those organisations that have such status in Welsh communities and in Welsh public life can do so much to encourage and persuade people to act in the ways that everyone in this Chamber would wish to see. We discussed the Welsh Rugby Union on the floor of the Senedd only a few weeks ago, and I am pleased to commend the work that the union is doing, it's promotion of the women's game, but also in the way that it can help to tackle attitudes that in the past may have gone unchallenged and today we know we have to confront in that direct way.

I'm very grateful for the help that the Welsh Government has received from sporting organisations in the Sound campaign, that campaign aimed at young men as they embark upon forming relationships in their own lives. We've had around 100 direct participants in the campaign—role models, people who speak out to others. In the first phase of the campaign, around 400,000 young people in Wales have been reached by the different ways in which that campaign aims to communicate the importance to young men, in particular, of having respectful relationships with others embedded in the way in which they themselves grow up. And as to the points that the Member has made about rugby clubs, and other sporting organisations as well that are of standing in those local communities, they can do a great deal to help.