6. Debate on the Equality and Social Justice Committee Report, 'How we must all play our part: a public health approach to halting the epidemic in gender-based violence'

– in the Senedd at 3:51 pm on 8 May 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:51, 8 May 2024


Item 6 is a debate on the Equality and Social Justice Committee report, 'How we must all play our part: a public health approach to halting the epidemic in gender-based violence'. I call on the Chair of the committee to move the motion—Jenny Rathbone.


Motion NDM8569 Jenny Rathbone

To propose that the Senedd:

Notes the Equality and Social Justice Committee report, 'How we must all play our part: a public health approach to halting the epidemic in gender-based violence' laid on Monday 15 January 2024.


Motion moved.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 3:51, 8 May 2024

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Statistics tell us that violence against women is an epidemic. In England and Wales two women a week are killed by a former or current partner. One in three women aged 16 to 60 will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Behind these shocking statistics is a mother, a daughter, a colleague or a neighbour. This report is about how we must all play our part in ending this epidemic. 

While nearly all of us will have experienced some form of gender-based violence at home, in the workplace or in our social relationships, more often in all three spheres, we needed to hear from the experts, those with lived experience of the most serious consequences of gender-based violence. Our advisory group played a key role in co-producing our report, and I'm glad to say that some of them are in the gallery to listen to our debate. I want to thank them for sharing their knowledge and insight in shaping key stages of the inquiry, and for their comments on the Welsh Government's response.

I also want to thank the committee's clerking team, in particular Rhys Morgan, and the Research Service, in particular Sarah Hatherley, for the work they did in pulling this really lengthy and complicated report together. We started this inquiry nearly a year ago. It was published in January, with the initial Welsh Government response from Jane Hutt on 26 February, and a further response to our follow-up letter yesterday from the new Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice.

Dr Stephen Burrell of Durham University told us that gender-based violence

'is founded in, and plays a significant role in reproducing gender inequalities in which women’s lives are valued less and men are encouraged to expect to have more power. This cannot simply be seen as one among many factors contributing to gender-based violence—it is the central factor.'

Addressing the underlying imbalances between men and women and promoting gender equality for all is key to preventing and ultimately eliminating gender-based violence. That is why the advisory group regarded recommendation 1 as our most important recommendation. The Welsh Government agrees it requires a whole-of-Government approach and working with partners across public services and private and third sector, but disagrees with our suggestion of a gender equality test to be applied to all policy and legislative proposals. Instead, Jane Hutt initiated a review of the weight given to gender in the integrated impact assessment, commencing with discussing it with each department of Government. But I think one of the key issues for the advisory group is how is the Welsh Government ensuring that the voices of victims and survivors are feeding into that process. For our part, we acknowledge that adopting a public health approach to this epidemic through tackling gender inequality is difficult and pioneering work. That is why we are recommending the Welsh Government takes a more vigorous approach to raising awareness and generating a shared understanding of our collective responsibility throughout society to tackle this poison that affects us all.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 3:55, 8 May 2024

I commend initiatives like Sound that encourage young men in Wales to learn about gender-based violence and think about how they approach everyday scenarios in their relationships, which are to be welcomed as interventions. The committee also heard about the great work going on with girls and young women through organisations like Plan International. But it is disappointing to know that the precise terms of the blueprint won't be published, but the terms of reference, the membership of the national partnership board and its work streams will be put up on the Welsh Government website later this month. We will hear from the current Minister, Lesley Griffiths, in due course in the autumn about how we can get a substantive update to test the interventions of Welsh Government and their effectiveness. That is very welcome, but it is also acknowledged that we need to include qualitative, as well as quantitative, data. The data production is proving to be considerably challenging for the Government. We will continue to scrutinise what difference Welsh Government makes to the lives of our citizens.

Of our 12 recommendations, many are quite broad, but recommendation 6 is very specific about ensuring all teachers are aware of their mandatory reporting duty on female genital mutilation. This is not imposed on children by strangers, it is something that misguided adults do to their own children. Realistically, schools are the only place children at risk can turn to to protect them, so that reassurance is very, very welcome.

But there are other recommendations where we are concerned. Recommendation 4: the advisory group was absolutely categorical about the need for fast-tracked specific and specialised therapeutic services for children who have witnessed gender-based violence. Whilst the Government accepts our recommendation, it does not provide any specific details on how it is upholding the rights of children experiencing or witnessing violence to fast-tracked specialised therapeutic services as required, nor does it commit to review the availability of these services and how well these are integrated into broader health services.

Telling us that the needs of all children are your priority, Cabinet Secretary, and that of the whole Government, is not sufficient. Listing specialist services the Welsh Government is funding for all victims of violence against women is not the reassurance we are seeking. The investment the Welsh Government is making in supporting families to stay together safely and therapeutic support for care-experienced children is also welcome, but it is not relevant to addressing a whole-system approach to adverse childhood experiences from gender-based violence.

You detail the work going on to transform the services for children and young people who are looked after, but it does not address the urgent need now. Maybe there's a tentative link between children who witness violence at home and children ending up in the care of the local authority, but that does not cover the vast majority of children who witness gender-based violence. So, I think this is something that we are going to have to come back to the Government on, because we really are concerned, and it was such a prime recommendation from our advisory group.

Finally, recommendation 11: addressing toxic masculinity is a really complicated challenge, countering the negative role models appearing on TikTok, and it's important work going on in schools with the new curriculum and in universities. But once men and boys translate toxic action that brings them to the attention of the police or health services, there needs to be clear pathways to address their offending behaviour. Unchallenged, we know that behaviour is likely to escalate into more damaging and even life-threatening behaviour.

So, we were very concerned that perpetrator programmes are not accurately—. It is unclear which of those programmes actually work and which do not. We were very lucky to observe the professional background of people delivering the Driving Change programme that we visited, but we were surprised that most referrals came via children's social services. That's important, but where are the police in all this? How do the police deal with domestic disputes that lead to the police being called but don't merit an arrest? What suite of options is available to health professionals who similarly encounter disclosures on domestic violence? Relationships rarely go from amicable to violent in one day, and pathways to different types of service, depending on the gravity of the situation, are needed now, with a really clear suite of options that ensures that people know exactly what they're referring into and how successful it has been.

Past trauma linked to becoming either a perpetrator or a victim is something we have to stop, rather than build on. So, this is something that we also want to ensure is actually happening, but we are concerned that the work that is being done by the Welsh Government is not going to report to the national partnership board until July of next year. That does not feel like a public health approach. I look forward to hearing the comments from other Members.

Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative 4:02, 8 May 2024

I had the pleasure of serving on the committee during its deliberations and I would like to put on record my thanks to the Chair, to my fellow Members and to the committee clerk for their support, not just during this inquiry, but during my time as a member of the Equality and Social Justice Committee. I would also like to thank everyone who gave evidence to the inquiry.

While we make inroads in creating a more equal society, the scourge of misogyny and gender-based violence continues to rear its ugly head. Several witnesses to our inquiry pointed to the intersectionality of the prevalence of gender-based violence within certain communities. Dr Fox and Dr Miles of Manchester University stated that not enough was being done to identify early indicators of so-called honour-based abuse. The Minister, during her evidence session, highlighted the funding provided to Karma Nirvana to provide a virtual roadshow for professionals across Wales, but 20 virtual sessions are hardly enough to address the issues. As Karma Nirvana themselves pointed out, there has been a dramatic uptick in practices such as virginity testing in Wales since the pandemic. Much more needs to be done to ensure that such practices, as well as FGM, which the Chair has already mentioned, are wiped out in Wales. It was shocking to hear that teachers in Wales are not aware of their duty to report FGM.

Other groups highlighted issues of gender-based violence within the disabled community. While the Minister stated that Welsh Government is very conscious of this disproportionate impact, she simply called for more data. Whilst more evidence is always welcome, what we really need is more action. I'm pleased that the Welsh Government has accepted all the committee's recommendations, but I would urge the Cabinet Secretary to instil a greater sense of urgency.

One of the other areas of concern for me was the role of early intervention and prevention, particularly in higher education settings. The worrying rise of online misogyny platforms and the hero-worshipping of hate figures like the Tate brothers have been allowed to go unchecked in many of our university campuses. One of our witnesses, Dr Rachel Fenton, compared the lack of action at UK universities with what was happening in the USA, where legislation is in place to require universities to have bystander programmes. Dr Fenton reported that some UK universities have 'done nothing at all—nothing', due to a lack of senior leadership buy-in.

I welcome the fact that the Cabinet Secretary for Education will write to the higher education institutions to remind them of their obligations to tackle violence against women and harassment. I would ask that the Cabinet Secretary also sets out an expected timeline for when she expects to see improvements. We can't afford to be bystanders. We need our institutions to step up to the plate. We all have a role to play in tackling gender-based violence and need to call out bad behaviours whenever we see them. Hopefully, the Equality and Social Justice Committee's deliberations will help shift the needle and call time on misogyny and gender-based violence in Wales. Thank you. 

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru 4:06, 8 May 2024

Social media is famously lacking in nuance. While the debates can be superficial, frivolous, polarised or even hateful, it can, nevertheless, sometimes be helpful in bringing an issue into focus and spreading awareness of that issue. The 'man versus bear' debate currently trending is a good example of this. For those not familiar with it, the premise is as follows: a hypothetical question that went viral on social media asks, 'Would you rather be left in the woods with a man or a bear?' Women are overwhelmingly choosing the bear. Of course, it should be a ridiculous question. Why would you choose a massively strong, fierce and often deadly predator over a fellow human being?

Some women's answers perhaps have a bearing on the report we're debating today: 'If you were attacked by a bear, nobody would say that it's your fault,' 'A bear, because, if it attacks me, everyone will believe me', 'Nobody will ask what I was wearing when the bear attacks me', and, 'Bears are not killing two women a week in England and Wales, and, if they were, action would be taken to stop it immediately'. Our aim, as a committee, was to find examples of what works, in terms of preventing us having to think twice before making this kind of hypothetical choice, stopping gender-based violence before it occurs, before attitudes of misogyny lead to this epidemic we have of gender-based violence and domestic abuse—basically, to negate the whole premise of that choice. As the surprise shown by some to the reaction to this viral debate has evidenced, this is a hugely important and desperately urgent task.

We were aided, as a committee, by a group of survivors who helped to shape and inform our inquiry, and I want to say how grateful I am to you all. Your experiences, your pain, your strength and your determination meant that we, as a committee, had in the very front of our minds the need for more effective interventions, better support and thus the responsibility the Welsh Government has to play in preventing and mitigating gender-based violence and abuse. On a personal level, I want to say 'diolch' to you for sharing your wisdom and for your patience with having to reiterate yet again how support is too often failing you. 

It was striking, we were told during our inquiry, that this focus on primary prevention was much needed, and that the development of evidence-led policy, based on analysis, evaluation and sharing of knowledge and data was vitally important if we are ever to really understand and therefore successfully address the intersectionality of gender-based violence. The former Minister for Social Justice agreed, and highlighted the creation of a staffed central repository of knowledge to provide a focus for developing evidence and evaluation, which is, of course, one of the stated aims of the Government's refreshed VAWDASV strategy.

We asked in particular that Government should identify opportunities for researching interventions that engage men and boys specifically in order to add to the evidence base on this issue. The Government's response to our recommendation that addressed this need for improving the evidence base available to inform policy decisions and commissioning of services, was, therefore, very disappointing. The Government have stated that, due to resource restrictions, this will now not be a staffed institution and will only exist as a virtual network. Rolling back on the very basis of what could effectively inform an effective public health approach seems to me at the very heart of the problem. This is a way the Government could, in the words of the report, play its part. It's ironic and deeply troubling that one of the central calls of our report, that a gender equality test should apply to all Government decisions, was obviously needed here. So, what gender impact assessment was made of this cut?

Public Health Wales told us that gender-based violence is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. But Women's Equality Network Wales have drawn attention to the fact that the Welsh Government didn't reference its new strategic equality plan in response to action 1 of our report. So, what role does the Government envisage for the forthcoming strategic equality plan 2024-28 in ensuring action 1 is delivered—that is, gender disparities are being addressed in all equality plans, with appropriate consideration of intersecting discrimination and through a whole-Government approach?

As well as advancing gender equality for women, we heard powerful evidence that engagement with men and boys is absolutely key to preventing gender-based violence. The assumed dominance of men in our families, our work and our culture is the soil in which misogyny takes root. An unforgettable experience for me during this inquiry was to attend a perpetrator programme in Cardiff. It was difficult and uncomfortable, but an invaluable piece of evidence gathering, and I heard first-hand from men who had been helped to recognise and address the effect of their harmful attitudes to women in their lives. We heard very powerfully from experts why this type of work is absolutely vital, and how it can be an extremely successful prevention tool, but we also heard the views of survivors who are very concerned the programmes were inconsistent in their approach and their effectiveness didn't always consider their safety. So, the Government's acceptance of recommendation 11, which called for a rapid review of these programmes, is, therefore, welcome. I hope that this at least shows to our advisory group of survivors that they've been heard, and that we as a committee have ensured the Government has listened.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:12, 8 May 2024

Sioned, you need to conclude now, please.

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat

I just want to highlight the title of this report: 'How we must all play our part: a public health approach to halting the epidemic in gender-based violence'. 'Public health approach'—that's because it is a health emergency, and that's about us all working together across agencies, across all of the services, in order to stop this epidemic. It is an epidemic. People are dying every day of the week. It is absolutely essential that we step up to the plate here in Wales and show action on this issue.

I would like to express my gratitude to the members of the committee, and at the heart of my contribution here today lies the vital importance of putting victims and survivors at the centre of an approach to gender-based violence. Thank you to all of those who bravely shared their experiences. We listened to you—thank you for sharing what you had to share. We need to put victims and survivors at the centre of everything we do, because doing so not only allows us to better understand and address the root causes of this epidemic, but it also allows us to build critical trust with our survivors and empower those survivors as well. That's why, again, I'm profoundly grateful for the perspective of the advisory group—courageous survivors who shared their experiences of gender-based violence. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Their invaluable first-hand insights and expertise have been vital guides in forming this report.

One of the key concerns raised was the dire lack of support services to help children process the trauma of witnessing domestic abuse or sexual violence. Mainstream services such as CAMHS were described as utterly ill-equipped to deal with the impact of severe long-lasting emotional consequences. I would like to hear a little bit more from the Cabinet Secretary with regard to recommendation 5, as I'm disappointed to read the response to date. 

The advisory group also reminded us that gender-based violence does not exist in a vacuum. While gender is undoubtedly the core factor, the nuanced reality, shaped by poverty, race, sexuality and disability status, and other characteristics, cannot be ignored or just treated as separate silos. They highlighted in particular how disabled survivors’ vulnerabilities are often overlooked, particularly where the perpetrator is their caregiver, as providers lack training to recognise abuse against them, forcing survivors to increase that risk. So, we need to be listening to those people, and I would be interested to hear from the Cabinet Secretary again on how we can address those intersectional issues.

We heard again from the advisory group about the egregious lack of trust survivors have in police, not just in police, but in prosecutors as well, and also front-line services, in how they can handle their cases with the required sensitivity, in believing their accounts and responding with empathy. That so many who spoke have been dismissed, discredited and re-traumatised is a terrible indictment of the unacceptable failures permeating public service responses to gender-based violence across Wales.

As noted, survivors are experts through experience. Directly involving survivors in informing and training our front-line responders is crucial for building deep understanding, fostering empathy and preventing re-traumatisation. Whilst this report represents a significant step forward, it is just one step on the long road to effectively combating gender-based violence. Lasting change hinges on decisive action, and that has to be based on the insights that survivors provide. Only by closely adhering to their first-hand expertise can we fundamentally re-imagine our approach. It’s about empowering victims and dismantling the injustices that enable abuse to persist. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of Joyce Watson Joyce Watson Labour 4:17, 8 May 2024

I’m really pleased to take part in this debate today, and I thank the committee for looking at this, and all those who’ve contributed towards it. I spent many years campaigning against this issue and I’m pleased that the report’s focus is on what we can do, because ultimately that’s the aim. It’s an issue for everybody, and that’s recognised in the report.

A public health approach treats abuse as an issue for all of society, not just the sets of individual problems, and it also seeks cultural change. I’m glad that you’ve used the words 'epidemic'—and it's been mentioned already—'in gender-based violence', because we see it everywhere. We’ve witnessed female surgeons being groped by colleagues as they operate. We’ve seen cleaners being chased around fire stations by their station managers. So, the TUC Wales workplace harassment toolkit provides employers, union representatives and employees with detailed information, tools and practical steps to deal with this pervasive issue.

But today I want to focus on the impact on children experiencing domestic abuse in childhood. It is child abuse. That includes witnessing that abuse. Children very often go unrecognised as victims of abuse, and the services may be not offered or readily available. Yet the trauma that they suffer can be and often is life changing. I would like to see support such as counselling to be offered as standard in school settings proactively, where there is known to be abuse in families.

Recommendation 4 of the report says that

'The Welsh Government should take urgent action to ensure that fast-tracked, specific and specialised therapeutic services are available for all babies, children and young people who experience or witness gender-based violence and provide details of these in response to this report.' 

I absolutely support that. I’ve worked with NSPCC Cymru, Barnardo’s Cymru and other bodies who advocate for the provision of specialist services to help children and young people who are victims of domestic abuse to recover.

In response to recommendation 4 from the committee’s report, I note the Welsh Government has referenced the draft national practice framework. Members of the transformation delivery group are working to clarify and strengthen the draft standards in order to achieve their intended purposes. While the framework, if implemented successfully, could lead to greater consistency and service delivery across Wales, it won't address all the issues currently faced by children's social care. The framework must be accompanied by sustainable funding for services, actions to address recruitment and retention of staff, and investment in early intervention and prevention.

The work of the violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence blueprint children and young people's needs sub-group is worthy of mention. The sub-group is currently looking at the gaps in existing evidence bases, as has been already mentioned today, and the need for analysis of children and young people impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence, among other work.

Another action for the sub-group must be to strengthen accountability mechanisms and to ensure public services are meeting the needs of children and young people impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence. That should include services, responses, auditing, inspection and grant monitoring. I would welcome assurances that this work will continue along with a commitment to ensuring that children who are victims of domestic abuse can receive the right support at the right time, but also to recognise that those witnessing domestic abuse are also victims in their own right. 

Photo of Buffy Williams Buffy Williams Labour 4:21, 8 May 2024

I'd also like to thank the committee for the work they've undertaken on this report. Domestic abuse and violence can present itself in many forms. Although still far too prevalent and a problem that urgently needs to be tackled, our attitudes and understanding across communities in Wales haven't strayed far enough away from physical abuse and violence. There are deep-rooted misogynistic views and controlling behaviours that are, unfortunately, accepted cultural norms in our communities. This behaviour often precedes physical abuse. We must all play our part to disrupt the cycle and change this.

Lockdowns during the pandemic, hikes in interest rates pushing up mortgages and rents, and soaring utility bills have each led to us viewing our homes as burdens over recent years, not sanctuaries. But the problem of abuse and violence has plagued too many households for far longer than these recent crises. As part of my 'Fear Free Valleys' report, over the last year I've been working with partners to gain a better understanding of how this problem affects us in our Valleys.

In Rhondda alone, between May 2022 and 2023, there were 2,605 domestic abuse and violence incidents reported to South Wales Police. This is 674 more incidents than the next greatest area of reported incidents across Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr. There was an undeniable link between the level of incidents reported and the level of deprivation. Using data provided by Operation Encompass, of these incidents, 20 per cent took place in households where children reside. Operation Encompass informs schools if children have witnessed or experienced violence at home.

Although recommendations 4, 5 and 6 of the gender-based violence report have been accepted, the Welsh Government response to recommendation 4 does not specifically mention school staff. It's vital that we not only remind staff of their legal duties, as has been recommended, but ensure that safeguarding officers, family liaison officers and teaching staff are included in any future multi-agency discussion, and any future training opportunities. And with the rise in the number of safeguarding incidents and behavioural issues at school, it's also vital that any further expectations on schools are followed by adequate funding to meet the current and future demand.

Delving deeper into the problems faced by victims in Rhondda, it was clear that, on the whole, the support available for both victims and perpetrators met their needs respectively. Local support providers, such as the Safer Rhondda Centre and Drive, with their suite of interventions, support victims and also perpetrators who are willing to change their behaviour. Hand in hand with the Live Fear Free helpline, and more recently Sound, we are on the right track in Wales. But in Rhondda, 77 per cent of surveyed residents had not heard of these helplines. Upon accepting recommendations 2 and 10, it's vital that an awareness campaign happens, led by a high-profile sports star, but meaningful conversations must also take place, with support for providers on the ground to identify trustworthy community champions, like sports coaches, to attend low-level awareness training and to ensure providers have all they need to meet an inevitable increase in demand off the back of an awareness campaign.

I note that the report hasn't made any specific recommendations regarding police response or training. In Rhondda, I know the inconsistencies in police response have been detrimental to some victims. As part of the actions off the back of accepting recommendation 2 to further develop the blueprint, a commitment from the Welsh Government to correspond directly with police forces in Wales regarding training for officers on the beat; the awareness and understanding and use of domestic violence protection notices and orders—this was vitally important as part of our report; and a wider review that incorporates the response of officers arriving at the scene to support victims is vital, if we're to improve the experience of victims. Diolch.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:26, 8 May 2024


I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice, Lesley Griffiths.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and I'm very pleased to take part in this debate. As some Members may recall, in a previous role, I led on our groundbreaking legislation, the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015. I was proud then of Wales leading the way to set in statute measures to prevent, protect and support people affected by violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. I once again look forward to working collaboratively across agencies, in all sectors, to eliminate gender-based violence and abuse. Wales has made much progress in tackling violence against women and girls, domestic abuse and sexual violence, and we should be proud of our record. However, it is very clear that much remains to be done.

I welcome the focus of the Equality and Social Justice Committee on this subject. As they so aptly put it,

'we must all play our part'.

I've been very interested in hearing Members' valuable contributions this afternoon. I'm very clear that there is no place in our society for misogyny, harassment or abuse aimed at women and girls. I support the conclusions of the committee, that a public health approach is needed to tackle the causes as well as the effects of gender-based violence.

The long-lasting impacts for victims of abuse are significant and affect all aspects of their lives. This is why our national VAWDASV strategy, published in 2022, introduces our whole-society approach, which will be effective only if everybody feels a sense of ownership to tackle gender-based violence and abuse. The strategy is being delivered through a blueprint approach in partnership with policing in Wales. Led by the VAWDASV national partnership board, it's been co-chaired by the police and crime commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn and by my predecessor, Jane Hutt. It's a great example of leadership demonstrating a cohesive commitment to tackling these issues.

There are six objectives set out in the VAWDASV strategy, the fourth of which is to make early intervention and prevention a priority, in line with a public health approach. We have, for example, expanded our 'Don't be a bystander' pilot training and awareness-raising campaigns, with the intention of creating genuine and lasting changes in societal attitudes towards VAWDASV. I've committed to publishing an evaluation of the effectiveness of this key tool to support early intervention and prevention.

The national training framework for VAWDASV supports long-term efforts to ensure those in positions of responsibility, starting with front-line services, have the training and resources to deliver effective interventions. A review of the guidance on the statutory requirements for training across the the public service and specialist third sector will be undertaken this year. It will consider, for example, how to ensure health and social care professionals and GPs can fully participate in training.

For me, culture encompasses a society's values, beliefs, principles, how we communicate and how we behave towards one another. Unfortunately, we often see a vicious culture of violence against women, and we will only get to the root cause of these behaviours if we address misogyny and sexism in every part of society. Jenny Rathbone, in her opening remarks, mentioned our Sound campaign. That's recently won a national PR award, and it's been a shining example of how we engage with men and boys. The campaign uses recognisable, positive and influential male role models to highlight positive behaviour and focus on gateway behaviours to abuse, such as love bombing, gaslighting and controlling behaviours. Phase 2 of the Sound campaign, launched in April, including the 'Sound Lad' documentary, pulls together some of the work completed in the past 12 months, and tomorrow we are holding a showcase event in Newport that will include a viewing of the documentary, clips of our various Sound videos, and some live interviews with two of our key supporters and participants of the campaign.

Sharing core messaging around engagement and communication is key to changing societal attitudes towards VAWDASV. Our blueprint workplace harassment work stream is focused on the wider culture of violence against women, which includes misogyny and sexual harassment. Women, disabled people, LGBTQ+ and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities all experience heightened levels of harassment in the workplace. We have a range of partners working with us to tackle these harms, including Wales TUC, Public Health Wales and front-line services, including the police. This is a practical example of how a public health whole-system approach is necessary if we are to eradicate gender-based violence out of all aspects of our society and build towards a 'one public sector' approach.

Similarly, our blueprint children and young people's needs work stream recognises early exposure to abuse and violence has significant negative impacts on all aspects of the lives of children and young people, especially in terms of educational attainment and building healthy relationships with family and friends. Here in Wales, relationships and sexuality education has been made a statutory requirement within the Curriculum for Wales framework, making it mandatory for all learners. Developing healthy relationships from an early age will help change our culture for the better. We also fund the Stori Cymru Spectrum project, which promotes the importance of healthy relationships and provides training for the whole school. For university students, I intend to work closely with my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Education to ensure tackling violence against women is a priority for university leaders across Wales. Young women deserve to study in safe, nurturing environments alongside their male peers.

I do regard the committee's report as an endorsement of our overall approach. However, I can assure Members I do so without any complacency. I just wanted to correct one point that Jenny Rathbone mentioned. In relation to recommendation 11 of the report relating to the perpetrators programme from the national partnership board, I think you said it would be presented and published next year, in 2025—it is actually July of this year.

We should always challenge ourselves to do better, and I'm certainly doing that in this new role. I want to prioritise a culture shift that focuses on early intervention and prevention with partners across the public sector. Only by engaging across both the public and third sectors in Wales and instilling a collective sense of effort towards achieving our objectives can we all make a real change. It will take all of us—each and every one of us in society—to tackle violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Diolch.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour

Thank you very much for all those comments. We initially heard from three members of the committee who took part in this inquiry, starting with Altaf Hussain. We're very grateful for all the input that Altaf has had on the work of the committee and wish him well in his other work. You were obviously highlighting the importance of honour-based abuse, which is not sufficiently highlighted in much of our work. I had obviously mentioned female genital mutilation, but there are many other forms of cultural violence that, perhaps, are more hidden from mainstream responses. We all need to be thinking, in all our work, about how we reach those who find it most difficult to get help.

You also talked about the problems amongst disabled citizens. We don't know how many disabled people are the subjects of violence, but it's likely that it would be more prevalent than in the general community. In my view, universities shouldn't need much reminding that they really do need to take this issue seriously, because the bad publicity that results from terrible experiences of students is not going to do them any favours.

We then heard from Sioned Willliams and this wonderful allegory of the man or the bear, which is fantastic in really getting people to think about how women are treated when they report domestic violence. And then the response from an individual that, 'No-one will ask me what I was wearing when the bear attacks me'—we absolutely have to do a great deal more work to ensure that women's grief and violence against them is being heard and taken seriously, and we know that we have a great deal more work to be doing on that.

Obviously, primary prevention has to be about stopping violence from happening in the first place. I'm glad that you highlighted the cut to the central repository. I appreciate that Jane Hutt, who I'm sorry isn't in the Chamber at the moment, is absolutely passionate about gender equality, and she, I'm sure, has done a great deal of work behind the scenes to try and improve the whole-Government approach to this really significant matter. But, unfortunately, it was one of the victims of the cuts, which means that we don't then have a vehicle for sharing the best practice. That is a concern, and we have to think of other ways in which we can overcome that decision. You also spoke about the importance of the perpetrator programmes, which can be very effective, but survivors are sceptical, and we need to ensure that they have the confidence, based on the analysis of what really works, and that is about proper evaluation. So, I'm very glad to hear from the Cabinet Secretary that there is a typo in the original response and that this information will be made available this summer. That's very good news.

Jane Dodds, you're absolutely right that we have to have victims and survivors at the centre of everything that we do, and, in particular, we cannot have children not being given the service they need to deal with their adverse childhood experience. And we think, absolutely, school is the right place for these services to be delivered, because the child won't necessarily be able to cope with revisiting the trauma the week after it happens. Children will deal with this differently, and therefore the school is the place that they're at most of the time, and that is the place where they're most likely to disclose that they need help. But there's a great deal more work to be done on this, and I'm sure the committee will continue to pursue this.

Thank you, Joyce Watson, for your contribution. The cleaners being chased around the fire station by the fire officers, I'm afraid, says it all, and, obviously, our work on the fire and rescue service is something that we're going to turn our attention to next. We know that it's a form of abuse, and if we don't help people, they'll either become victims themselves, or perpetrators. So, this is a key part of the prevention service.

Buffy Williams, you really, really know your community, and it was really interesting to hear the level of detail that you have managed to paint in this picture of what's going on in the Rhondda, and the need to improve the police response to what is endemic in the system.

I just finally want to draw all Members' attention to the final recommendation in our report, which affects us all, which is recommendation 12, and that is that we all need to improve our ability to respond, to not be bystanders when this happens. We all have to play our part—the whole Government, the whole of society. The public health approach to gender-based violence is the only way we are going to beat this; otherwise, it will simply consume us.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:39, 8 May 2024


The proposal is to note the committee’s report. Does any Member object? No. The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.


Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.