North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called for more support for both male and female victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Speaking in a debate on the ‘The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Annual Review 2016-2017’, Mr Isherwood (pictured) emphasised the shortage of refuges for male victims in Wales, referring to the fact that Flintshire men’s refuge is struggling to meet demand, and the need for more perpetrator programmes.
He said: “Working alongside Plaid Cymru’s Jocelyn Davies and Liberal Democrat Peter Black, I was one of the three AMs in the last Assembly who took the Welsh Government to the line over passage of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Act (Wales) 2015.
“We will therefore be supporting amendment 1 (‘Regrets that the Equality and Human Right’s Commission’s aim of eliminating violence in the community is hampered by the lack of progress in implementation of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Act (Wales) 2015’), and, in this context, I also move amendment 2, noting that the Commission’s aim of eliminating violence in the community requires implementation of the wider Welsh Government pledges made during the passage of the Act. Welsh Women's Aid are now concerned about the lack of Health Budget being invested in specialist Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence providers.
“I moved amendments then calling for national and local strategies to meet the gender-specific needs of women and men. The Stage 1 committee report recommended that Welsh Ministers should ensure that services are tailored to the specific needs of men and women respectively. The Minister then opposed these amendments, stating that this will already be taken into consideration by authorities in the preparation and implementation of national and local strategies.
“In emphasising that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by violence, the Domestic Abuse Safety Unit in Shotton also provides a gender-neutral service, because they say that domestic abuse and sexual violence affect both genders.
“When I visited them recently, they told me that their male refuge received five referrals for just two spaces on its first day, that it had been full ever since and that they are currently operating waiting lists. I understand it's the only male refuge in North Wales, currently funded by the Council, supporting victims until next March, with funding for female victims supported only one year more. A written Welsh Government response to me last month stated that a 2015 survey showed 274 refuge spaces across Wales, of which four in Montgomery were provided for males.”
He added: “I moved then amendments calling for the National Strategy to include provision of at least one perpetrator programme. As Relate Cymru had told Committee, ‘90 per cent of the partners they questioned some time after the end of their programme said 'that there had been a complete stop in violence and intimidation by their partner’. The Minister responded that he did not consider my amendments appropriate, but had jointly funded research to help inform future responses to perpetrators. Well, as reiterated at the last meeting of the Cross Party Group on Violence against Women and Children, Relate's programme ‘Choose 2 Change’ is the only current Respect-accredited programme in Wales.”
Mr Isherwood also moved Amendment 3, “noting the increase in reported hate crime in Wales” and Amendment 4, noting that the EHRC’s efforts to ensure that equality and human rights are embedded in work taken forward under the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, detailed in their Annual Review, will require the “real and meaningful dialogue between communities, individuals and their public services” called for by the Future Generations Commissioner in her Draft Strategic Plan.