As Covid-19 restrictions ease, the Welsh Government is stepping up support to promote face to face services for victims and survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence (VAWDASV).
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Welsh Government has prioritised funding for VAWDASV support in different ways to meet changing needs:
- £1.2 million capital funds for disbursed community based accommodation to allow move-on, and reduce the demand on refuges
- £0.25 million revenue, repurposed to meet the immediate needs of Covid-19
An additional £1.575 million revenue, announced in June, is being prioritised to help service providers to prepare for the anticipated surge in demand as restrictions are eased, and particularly to enable face to face services to resume.
The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said:
“Covid-19 and the changes to daily life have increased the risk and severity of VAWDASV. Perpetrators of domestic abuse used lockdown measures to increase their controlling behaviour, preventing victims and survivors from having the privacy and space they needed to access advice and support.
“Welsh Government’s Live Fear Free helpline saw a worrying drop in calls earlier this year, but silent methods of contact increased, and the number of chats and emails to the helpline remained high.
“As lockdown measures ease, and children return to school next week, victims and survivors will have more opportunities to confide in friends, family and professionals, and to seek the support they need. Calls to the helpline are exposing increasingly complex needs, and higher levels of risk.
“We are now working with VAWDASV partners and specialist providers to help services get back to face-to-face working in a secure environment, using sneeze screens, PPE equipment and social distancing measures.
“I would encourage anyone who has suffered domestic abuse or violence, or who is concerned about a relative, friend or neighbour, to contact the Live Fear Free helpline – by phone, email, text or live chat. Help and support, including silent support, is available 24 hours a day. You are not alone, and face to face support is resuming.”
Welsh Women’s Aid CEO Sara Kirkpatrick said:
“Welsh Women’s Aid are delighted that this Welsh Government capital funding will help specialist services to resume much needed face to face support for survivors.
“The Covid-19 pandemic altered many of the ways that services were able to provide their life saving, life changing support to survivors. Their resilience and ability to adapt throughout the pandemic has been breath-taking, but not being able to provide face to face support to those in need has created some concern among staff, and some survivors have faced both practical and emotional barriers.
“Unfortunately, we know from Live Fear Free helpline data that rates of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence rose during the pandemic, but the nature of social distancing and lockdown meant that for many survivors, access to support and safety were limited.
“As these restrictions lift, we expect to see a rise in survivors reaching out for help and guidance. We are reassured that more of these survivors will be able to experience face to face support when safe and appropriate, thanks to Welsh Government assistance.”
Fflur Emlyn, of the Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre, North Wales (RASASC NW) said:
“Thanks to the recent capital award provided by the Welsh Government, RASASC North Wales has been able to resume face to face therapeutic intervention to child and adult survivors of sexual abuse in North Wales.
“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, all face to face services were suspended and continued via digital means. However our therapeutic work with children under 11 had to be suspended both face to face and digitally, as in practical terms it was not possible to continue.
“This funding has contributed to PPE equipment, and the safe resumption of all RASASC NW services to survivors of child sexual abuse and sexual abuse in North Wales, including work with our very young child clients.”