Domestic abuse survivors at Future Generations Wales will get financial support to leave an abusive relationship
People working for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales will be able to receive cash support to escape an abusive relationship, it is announced today.
Sophie Howe is today launching a new policy that will allow staff suffering domestic abuse access to a grant or loan to ‘alleviate financial barriers’ to leaving the perpetrator.
Financial issues are reported to be one of the biggest barriers to leaving an abusive relationship, and it’s hoped the policy, being launched on the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, will be rolled out across Wales.
In March 2019, the commissioner became the first employer in Wales to offer paid domestic abuse leave to employers.
Staff can take up to five paid days a year for urgent domestic crises or emergencies, or 10 if the employee needs to leave home or access a refuge, and the policy has since been adopted by Neath Port Talbot Council and Welsh Government, with more public bodies looking likely to follow.
Under the new financial support policy, employees working for the Future Generations Commissioner can now apply for a cash grant of up to £500, a salary advance or a loan of up to £5,000 to help pay for anything from relocation costs including rent or a deposit on a home, to essential supplies.
The commissioner is encouraging other organisations to consider how they can further support anyone suffering domestic abuse.
Employees can also access support to develop a safety plan, call screening to protect them from abuse, and 24-hour support from trained counsellors.
The organisation, which is funded by Welsh Government as the only country in the world to legislate for well-being, under the Well-being of Future Generations Act, encourages flexible working. It has an ‘anywhere any time’ working policy for all staff, so they can work their hours in the location that best suits them and their family.
The team also raises awareness of domestic abuse and its causes and consequences through annual activities, training and learnings sharing.
The commissioner worked with domestic abuse campaigner Rachel Williams to ask survivors what employers could do to help, and they told them how important access to financial support can be in breaking away from their situation.
Ms Howe said: “Domestic abuse has long term consequences for victims and their children. Almost half of people in Wales have grown up with at least one childhood adversity including domestic abuse*, and those living with multiple adversities are more likely to be victims of abuse in the future, have long term mental health problems and even be more susceptible to chronic health conditions.
“Future generations need everyone including employers to do what they can to address this. We often think this is just a matter for police or social services but the reality is that employers have a massive role to play in helping to keep their employees safe in work and at home.”
Ms Howe, former deputy police and crime commissioner for South Wales, and long-standing domestic abuse rights campaigner, said she was keen to see ‘leadership’ from the Senedd and Welsh Government in setting a standard for wide-spread financial protection for individuals and families.
She said: “We all have a duty to help others to live free from domestic abuse, and to protect those around us from harm. If there is a barrier to safety that this money can alleviate, we will make it available – whether that be for starting a new home, to adapting an existing one, childcare or even paying for pet boarding.
“Anyone can be affected by domestic abuse and I hope other organisations consider how they can offer help that could one day be a lifeline to someone on their team.”
Gwendolyn Sterk at Welsh Women’s Aid said: “Welsh Women’s Aid are pleased to see this additional action taken to support survivors in Wales.
“Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence is everyone’s business and we would like to see all employers able to respond in supporting employees who experience violence or abuse, and commend the Future Generations Commissioner’s team in developing this good practice.”
Mutale Merrill, CEO at Bawso, supported the policy and said COVID-19 had ‘effectively imprisoned black and minority ethnic women and reduced opportunities for them to remove themselves from abuse and impacted significantly on mental health.
She said: “Women continue to bear the physical and emotional scars of violence perpetrated against them mainly by a male partner, or in the case of some minority ethnic women, others in the entire family and by extension the community.
“Society remains hostile to women who flee violence and women face enormous challenges in leaving their families and everything that is familiar to them in order to escape abuse and protect their children. They face financial uncertainty, mental dislocation, and often language barriers which complicate understanding and communication.
“We are always exploring new ways to connect with victims and to help them both survive and plan for a future free of violence.”
My story: Rachel Williams
Domestic abuse survivor Rachel Williams supported the scheme and said financial support could save lives.
The 48-year-old from Newport was shot by her estranged husband in her workplace after she left him following 18 years of physical and emotional abuse. Weeks later, her 16-year-old son, Jack, died by suicide.
She said: “This could help so many people who are prevented from leaving a situation that could kill them.
“People are offered financial support for many reasons, including losing a job. Yet someone leaving a dangerous home often doesn’t know where they’re going to sleep that night.
“This sort of practical support would have given me another option. I would have left years sooner, had I not been worrying about where my children and I would go and live.”
Rachel now campaigns on domestic abuse issues. Her Facebook page Don’t Look Back, is followed by 15,000 people and she is an ambassador for The Freedom Programme. Since the pandemic, her 12-week, funded online course saw an increased uptake from around 10 to almost 100 women.
She said: “There are reasons why people go back to an abuser. The promises to change, combined with fears around how you’ll feed your children, can make it seem like an easier option to stay.
“That’s especially worrying now as we experience lockdowns and with many people losing jobs and scared about their financial future.”
Rachel said the support could help where a person has become financially unstable for many reasons, from a partner controlling the finances, to forcing them to take out loans, or demanding they hand over wages. Or where they’ve had to flee a home quickly.
She said: “Society puts pressure on people, especially women, to leave an abusive relationship, without always thinking about how they might be able to.
“You’re starting again from scratch, sometimes after years of building a home.
“It might be that they need new bedding for their children, uniform for a new school, or a computer for them to do their homework, to pay to set up the internet, or even cups, saucers and a new kettle.
“Offering practical, financial support puts the message out there that we as a society are listening to domestic abuse survivors.
“Businesses should be looking to back this. Domestic abuse is society’s business and we need society to help stamp it out.”
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on November 25, will see the start of 16 days of global activism against gender violence.
For more information and support you can contact these organisations:
Live Fear Free (Providing help and advice about violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence) gov.wales/live-fear-free / 0808 801 0800
Welsh Women’s Aid (the national charity in Wales working to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women) www.welshwomensaid.org.uk / 0808 80 10 800
Dyn Wales provides support to Heterosexual, Gay, Bisexual and Trans men who are experiencing domestic abuse from a partner. www.dynwales.org/links / 0808 801 0321
Bawso (Supporting Black and Minority Ethnic people in Wales experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of abuse, including. Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, Human Trafficking) bawso.org.uk / 029 2064 4633
*According to Ace Aware Wales.
Notes to editors
Sophie Howe is the world’s first and only Future Generations Commissioner with a role to protect future generations from the political actions of today.
The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, means Welsh Government and public bodies must work to make Wales healthier, more resilient, equal, cohesive, prosperous, globally responsive and with a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language, via ways of working including thinking long-term, prevention and collaboration.
In October, she launched her Manifesto for the Future, encouraging political parties in Wales to listen to young people on climate change and social justice, ahead of 16 and 17-year-olds voting for the first time in May’s Senedd elections.
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