On the 4th January 2016 the Second Commencement Order for the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 brought into force the remaining provisions of the Act including the development and implementation of joint Local Strategies and annual reporting requirements.
To read the second commencement order click here
The provisions contained within the Second Commencement Order place a duty on Local Authorities and Health Boards to jointly prepare a Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Strategy to meet local authority’s needs.
The strategy must specify joint objectives and actions that the Local Authority and Local Health Board propose to take and a timescale within which the objectives will be achieved. The strategy can also include provisions expected to be taken by any public authority or any voluntary organisation that are capable of contributing to improving arrangements for the prevention, protection and support of individuals affected by or experiencing any form of gender based violence.
The first joint strategy must be published no later than May 2018 and Local Authorities and Health Boards are required to consult prior to the publication or review of their Strategy.
The Act requires a Local Authority and Health Board to publish an annual report of progress in respect of each financial year.
Over the coming months we expect the development of both the National Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Strategy and National Indicators; both of which will be consulted upon and are expected to be published at the end of 2016. These key pieces of work will provide a national steer for the improvement of arrangements for the protection, prevention and support of individuals experiencing any form of gender based violence and regard must be paid to the National Strategy in the development of joint local strategies.
The requirement for joint local strategies presents an opportunity for Local Authorities and Local Health Boards to work alongside partners in the public and voluntary sector to develop an integrated strategy informed by local needs. It is essential that local strategies are responsive to the needs of all individuals experiencing gender based violence including:
- Children and young people
- Older people
- Black, minority and ethnic communities
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
The provisions of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 present opportunities for local authorities and other public services to contribute to the wider legislative requirements of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act and the Well Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, enabling public services to make a real difference for individuals and families experiencing gender based violence across Wales.
Now these provisions are in force, in my role as National Adviser for Violence against Women I will be embarking on a communications campaign which will include:
- Writing to leaders of local authorities and local health boards advising them as to the requirements of the legislation and the support available to fulfil these requirements.
- Engaging with leaders and strategic representatives to support the implementation of the Act
During the 2016/17 financial year I will also use the functions of my role to request information as to progress made in the implementation of the legislation and report to Ministers.
On a final note, I would like to re-inforce the huge opportunity that this Act represents when it comes to aligning and integrating its provisions with the requirements of the Well Being of Future Generations and Social Services and Well-Being legislation. The prevention, protection and support of individuals and families experiencing any form of gender based violence needs to be everyone’s responsibility and ‘core business’ going forward. The cost of domestic abuse alone in Wales is £826.4m annually (in service costs, lost economic input and human and emotional costs) and this can no longer be ignored.
I believe that by working together we can look differently at how we protect and support individuals and how we embed prevention across priority areas; health and social care, education and supporting children and families in order to prevent violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence happening in the first place.