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Appalling’ scale of domestic abuse in one Welsh county laid bare

09 Dec 2023 3 minute read
A young woman looking out of a window

Nicholas Thomas, local democracy reporter

An “astonishing” 21,000 people became victims of domestic abuse in Gwent over the past three years, partly fuelled by economic hardship brought on by the pandemic and rising cost of living.

Experts have warned that violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence are “large scale, pervasive problems” which “every year” cause “needless deaths and damage to thousands of lives” in Wales.

Amy Thomas, a regional lead advisor on the issue, said that “since Covid and the cost-of-living crisis we are seeing all classes of families impacted” by such violence.

Before the cost-of-living crisis, families “might have been well-off”, but due to growing pressures on finances “their relationships may be changing as a result”, leading to “abuse becoming prevalent”.

Demand for “crucial” support services is high, but there are concerns their work could be limited by piecemeal funding, which comes from an array of charities and government grants.

Funding

At a meeting of Newport City Council’s performance scrutiny committee for partnerships, on Wednesday December 6, councillors expressed concerns about the security of funding for victim support.

Ms Thomas said money was allocated to support services on an “annual basis”, making it difficult to organise longer-term projects to help victims.

Sally Ann Jenkins, the council’s strategic director for social services, described a “real tapestry of funding”, causing “headaches” about how this work is paid for.

The problem was not unique to Gwent, Ms Thomas added.

Priority

Committee member Pat Drewett said it “seems this way of funding [victim services] is not really satisfactory”, and support for “such an important area” should be improved.

Fellow committee member Allan Morris said support for victims should be a “priority area” for government and “ring-fenced” in budgets.

He said it was “astonishing and unbelievably sad” to hear of the scale of domestic abuse across Gwent.

Figures presented to the committee show that between January 2020 and December 2022, Gwent Police recorded incidents with 21,558 victims of domestic abuse and a further 109 incidents of honour-based abuse.

The force recorded 16,780 reports of serious sexual offences, and 921 people were referred to counselling for sexual violence and abuse.

Councillor Allan Screen told colleagues it was “appalling that in the 21st century we have this issue”.

Cllr Drewett added that funding for victim support should be improved “if we are to be a civil society”.

The committee agreed to note concerns about the sustainability of the funding model for victim support services, and “hopes it will change in future years”.


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