‘Children: the invisible victims?’ NSPCC Cymru/Wales’ policy calls for improved domestic abuse support for children across Wales

Blog by Elinor Crouch-Puzey, NSPCC 

Adult survivors have long been telling us that their children are not passive witnesses to the impact of domestic abuse, but are directly harmed, alongside their non-abusing parent, whether they are physically abused or not. Times have changed and children are no longer ‘seen and not heard’ – policy makers and experts talk about and recognise the importance of hearing the voices of children and young people and of providing services that meet their needs. In Wales, there has been a clear policy commitment to improving outcomes for children and young people (CYP). The UN Convention on the Rights of Children is embedded in Welsh legislation through the Right of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 and the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 (VAWDASV) aims to improve arrangements to prevent, protect and support victims of VAWDASV, including children and young people.   

But talk is cheap, we continue to see a ‘post-code lottery’ of specialist service provision for children and young people. This provision is inconsistent and patchy and CYP wait too long to access vital services. Welsh Government has committed to eradicating VAWDASV, but we need to focus our efforts on CYP. While it is important there is not a sense of inevitability that abused children will perpetrate abuse, we need to ensure they understand what a healthy relationship is and are empowered to challenge unhealthy behaviours as adults. Mandatory relationships and sexuality education for all children as a key primary preventive measure is welcome, but we need targeted recovery support, so CYP are not shaped by abuse. So, at NSPCC Cymru/Wales our calls for children and young people impacted by domestic abuse are focused on: 

  1. The need for secure and sustainable funding of specialist children and young people VAWDASV services from Welsh Government. Most referrals are received from statutory agencies but funding for specialist CYP work comes from trusts and grants, which isn’t sustainable. A key building block is to ensure support for all VAWDASV victims in Wales are appropriately resourced, high quality specialist services. 
  1. A prioritisation of children and young people by the Regional Partnership Boards (RPBs), who set the priorities for the VAWDASV response in their area.  At the point of writing, we wait to see the final VAWDASV national strategy 2022-26 from Welsh Government, from which the RPBs set their objectives. In our lobbying, we asked that key objectives within the strategy explicitly name children and young people, to ensure that prioritisation mentioned above. As it currently stands, CYP are not explicitly named, and we feel this impacts the ‘post-code lottery’ of service provision across Wales. 
  1. Welsh Government has made a commitment to early intervention and prevention, this must include a programme of training for professionals working with children and young people which considers the rights of the child’s voice and the impact of coercive control on children. 

The impact of VAWDASV ripples out across communities and wider society, creating a harmful and distressing environment to grow-up in – Children and young people must be centred in the work if we are to truly see an eradication of VAWDASV. 

This was released as part of our domestic violence conference, “When home is where the hurt is: understanding and responding to domestic abuse“.