Agenda item

Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) 2021/22



-       Natalie Poyner - Head of Children Services

-       Finn Madell - Head of Corporate Safeguarding

-       Amy Thomas - VAWDASV Regional Lead Advisor

-       Sally Ann Jenkins – Strategic Director – Social Services


The VAWDASV Lead Advisor provided committee with an overview of Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) which seeks to protect women from all forms of abuse. Newport hosts the regional VAWDASV team under the 2015 Act. Members were informed of the directives mentioned in the report such as domestic abuse in older people being a barrier and also modern day slavery and male suicide prevention, spectrum project with schools and projects that have been rolled out to Gwent.


It was highlighted that their achievement has been survivor engagement as they have developed a strong network of survivors who engage with the team and work with them to drive ways forward and also agencies have been key to the partnership.

Members were informed that 2021-2022 was a positive year considering the recovering challenges from the pandemic. The success was enabled by the commitment of the workforce, by sharing best practice despite facing challenges and pressure.


Committee raised the following points:


·         A Member wished to confirm if their work concerns men who face domestic abuse.


The VAWDASV Lead asserted that it includes all genders but as it came from the home office, the heading and overarching title remains but it is inclusive of all genders.The VAWDASV Lead then agreed to provide more data on the examples of male cases in Gwent. As there is an average of 2 males considered high risk for domestic abuse and require an agency response.


·         A Member expressed his thanks for the presentation and wanted to know what the partner’s most significant piece of progress is from the last few years.


The Strategic Director responded by stating if they look back in time, since 2015 legislation, people’s understanding and awareness has increased on other forms of abuse such as coercive control. In 2015, professionals and the public understanding of emotional abuse was far weaker back then.

In addition, the awareness and understanding of domestic abuse impact on children.The Director felt it was important to highlight these as it contributes to the increasing refusal to tolerate violence and the impact it causes.


·         The Chair made the suggestion of Newport City Council organising an all Member session on raising awareness and understanding on such topics.


The VAWDASV Lead explained that a training package has been developed for Members and Senior Officers of the Local Authority. They are currently discussing with Democratic Services to set up a training session in the New Year. This could be offered in terms of training for the helpline and signposting constituents for access to services.


·         A Member appreciated that measuring evaluation of the work is difficult and asked if there are any measures that they could possibly use to measure improvements.


In response, the VAWDASV Lead acknowledged that it is very difficult to measure as the work takes many different forms. It was mentioned that they measure the commission services; where they fund the service providers with quarterly measures which are collated and reported back to the Welsh Government. They would look at the strategy which is under review and write the new strategy for the New Year. For the police support, the Police Crime Commissioner has support work in place. When the team look at their objectives, they can cross reference that to see what impact they are having. It was recognised that it does not cover all areas in VAWDASV but provides them with an idea of how they are performing.


·         A Member noted that in the BAME communities, women may not be open about their suffering with abuse and asked if they have any kind of special training for staff with women’s aid on how they can help these women speak openly.


The Member has seen case studies and worked previously in interpreting for a freedom programme with Bawso, and found that a lot of the training would not sink in with the victims as they would return to the perpetrators. Therefore the Member asked what training is available to staff to overcome that.


The VAWDASV Lead noted that they have comprehensive training anf funding in terms of training staff. It focuses on principles with children being informed and how to get ready to flee. Staff have the resources normally DVV (Destitute Domestic Violence) to give more confidence to those victims. They all have training on that and citizens advice are trained to going to conversations with both women and men to ensure they are confident there is a resource so that victims will not feel like nothing will happen from it.


The funded specialist BAME workers are experts within the communities which add a layer of consideration to religious beliefs. On a strategic level, there is a subgroup which focuses on all points raised by the Member.

They share best practice and look at any gaps if in need of commissioning; they meet on a quarterly basis and is rolled out to various strands. Practitioner led for example working with other providers and helpline manager has been brought in to help the team in tightening up the protocol for women/men fleeing. It was recognised that there is nothing set in stone at the beginning of each year as funding money is on an annual basis and they do not know how much they are going to get. So they commission what they can and the subgroup reviews that.


·         A Member noted how Covid was a huge issue as it made it difficult for services to operate. As a result there was a significant fall in referrals due to children not being in schools and women confined to their homes. The Member felt that there was not much in the report to unpack the impact of that and appreciated that must have been hard to deal with.


The Head of Service advised that from safe-guarding they are in the process of evaluating the impact of the pandemic which will take longer than a few months. The Strategic Director added that she is mindful in ensuring her platform of evidence is correct but there has been an increasing number of referrals of children and women since Covid. Things were under the radar during the pandemic as they were not seen by health visitors, not seen about in public and now they are seeing the consequences of that. Noted that it may be sobering for what happens over the next 12-18 months.


The Director added that with her optimistic perception that the services like these worked really well during Covid. For instance the Police and Health staff worked together to ensure services were delivered. It was noted that attempts were made despite restrictions but informed Members that they may still be 36 months away where the fall-out from Covid will be with the Council for its impact on both adults and children. The VAWDASV Lead felt it might be too early to measure the impact just yet as Wales was still in lockdown at the start of 2021 due to the Christmas firebreak local authority lockdowns. The training elements were all on teams with business as usual but it was very intense and chaotic in delivering services. The Lead agreed that they will not be at a point yet to see the full effect of Covid on individuals.


The Strategic Director mentioned the other significant challenge that the service area will face having come through the pandemic; the cost of the living crisis which will impact families. A combination of post-Covid and the cost of living crisis is not to be underestimated. The VAWDASV Lead added that as they come out of Covid, they may see the numbers increase as the referrals are just coming through. And with families who may not have had a history of abuse but because of added financial related pressures causing stress; this could lead to violence/abuse against individuals.


The Committee Members wished to thank the officers and partners for their work, their time and for their comprehensive presentation.





The Committee noted the VAWDASV Progress Report, the Implementation Plan and the key strategic priority work plans for VAWDASV within the corporate arrangements for the whole Council, and wished to make the following comments and recommendations:


-          The Committee thanked Officers for their attendance and praised the comprehensive information that was provided. The Committee felt they gained a greater understanding of how the partnership work and again wish to comment that this was one of the well-presented reports that they have currently received during their time in the committee.


-          The Committee request that an All Member seminar be set up to allow all Councillors to be informed about how VAWDASV work. Members were pleased to hear that training courses have been developed for Councillors and Senior Officers.


-          Members noted the legacy of Covid and the high demand of services. Members wished to note their concerns that the partners will eventually be going to meeting these demands with less resources.


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