Wales politics

Domestic violence: School pupils' healthy relationship lessons

School children will be taught about healthy relationships as part of efforts to tackle domestic abuse.

The Welsh government set out its plans to change people's attitudes about violence towards women and improve services for victims in a white paper.

It includes a commitment to deliver education on healthy relationships in all schools.

Communities Minster Carl Sargeant said there were "gaps" in the help available for women suffering abuse and violence.

He unveiled the details of the Ending Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse Bill which will give councils and local health boards duties to assess what services are needed by victims in their areas.

A new post of independent ministerial adviser will be created, with powers to investigate whether public bodies comply with the legislation.

A national training framework for frontline staff across Wales will be introduced as a way to ensure services are consistently good.

Officials say that the help on offer to victims is "patchy" and they want professionals to "ask and act" when they come into contact with women they suspect are victims of abuse.

They also want services to collaborate and share information about people who are at risk, pointing to the example of Gwent Police which hosts conference calls with other agencies to deal with domestic abuse incidents.

The Welsh government says it wants to intervene in cases of domestic abuse earlier.

It estimates that dealing with the problem costs public services £300m a year, while £100m is lost in economic output.

Research by a panel of experts who did the groundwork for the bill found a strong association between witnessing violence in the home and the chances of violence later in life.

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Media captionCathy Owens from the Wales Violence Against Women Action Group gives her views

A survey of attitudes by Ipsos Mori of people in England and Wales found 14% of men and 19% of women thought it acceptable in some circumstances for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend if she nagged or constantly moaning at him.

An Amnesty International survey found 22% of respondents thought a woman was at least partially responsible for being raped if she had many sexual partners.

Mr Sargeant said that despite some improvements, "gaps in the provision of services remain and we can no longer rely on chance, goodwill and individuals to make the difference".

"There are already good examples of how investing early and quality interventions can save lives and the public purse," he said.

"I want to see a more consistent approach to, and availability of, high quality standardised services for victims across Wales.

"I passionately believe we have a duty to tackle this issue and I believe this ground-breaking legislation - as outlined in the white paper - will help us take significant steps forward in achieving the aim of ending violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence in Wales."

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