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Cardiff’s Women’s Safety Unit

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 10 October 2007

1. What discussions he has had with National Assembly for Wales colleagues on future funding of Cardiff’s women’s safety unit; and if he will make a statement. (156149)

The Cardiff women’s safety unit does a fantastic job in helping the victims of the abhorrent crimes of domestic violence. The Assembly Government and the UK Government are committed unreservedly to protecting vulnerable women and prosecuting violent partners.

Every year the Cardiff women’s safety unit supports about 1,500 domestic violence cases. I know that the Minister is aware of its excellent work, but is he aware that the unit is facing funding shortages in the short term, as some charitable funds are coming to an end, and in the long term, with funding for the Cardiff community safety partnership being cut by 14 per cent.? Will he speak to the Home Office to ensure that the unit is able to maintain the good work that it does well into the future?

As mentioned by the hon. Lady in whose constituency the unit is located, I visited the unit recently with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) and saw at first hand the very good work that it does. The unit is a model of good practice and provides an invaluable service. This year it received £247,298 core funding from the Assembly Government, which is secure for 2008-09. That is an increase on the original three-year allocation approved in March 2006. In addition, for 2007-08 the Assembly has awarded £63,442 to fund the male helpline, which operates from the unit, and that is an increase as well. The Assembly is considering its budget plans for future years, but I applaud the work that the unit does and the secure funding that is in place.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the pioneering success of the women’s safety units in halving the number of repeat offences of domestic abuse? That has been achieved about by their pioneering system of holding multi-agency conferences on all cases of high-risk domestic abuse. Is my hon. Friend aware that this system has been copied in 70 areas of the UK, and that Wales has been leading the way in this regard?

Absolutely. It would right and proper to say that we recognise the work of my hon. Friend in taking the initiative forward from its instigation. Yes, the multi-agency risk conferences are not only innovative but are proving their effectiveness. We hope to see more and more of them across the UK. It is worth pointing out the Government’s commitment to specialist domestic violence courts, of which there are eight in Wales and more to come in the UK. That shows how serious the Government are, both at UK level and in the Welsh Assembly Government.

Does the Minister agree that the women’s safety unit and other groups like it should do more to prioritise preventing the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation? Is he aware that since the law against that was passed in 2003, not a single person has been convicted, and that in Wales there is a danger that thousands of women could face that disgraceful and awful practice?

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important issue, but I am sure he is aware that one of the significant feature of the women’s safety unit is the way in which it brings together various agencies and actors from different women’s and male groups in the Cardiff and south Wales areas. They no doubt share the concerns that he expressed, but the core work that the women’s safety unit does in tackling domestic abuse and violence against partners, both male and female, is to be firmly applauded.