Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services
This Statement provides members with a progress report on our commitments set out in Chapter 7 of our Programme for Government, Safer Communities for All.
Our commitment to fund an additional 500 Community Support Officers (CSOs) was achieved ahead of schedule in October 2013. The Universities Police Sciences Institute (UPSI) research indicated the presence of the CSOs has made a real difference in helping people in Wales feel safer in their communities, with the percentage of respondents who had seen CSOs on patrol increased from 76% in 2012 to 90% in 2014.
The CSOs are highly visible in their communities, engaging with people, providing reassurance and tackling low level anti-social behaviour. For example the Gwynedd South Neighbourhood Policing Team has seen Pwllheli experience a 29% decrease in anti social behaviour. In South Wales, CSOs joined forces with the Fire Crime Practitioners to provide a visible presence in the area and give public reassurance to local residents. This followed a number of incidents, including some small deliberate fires in communal areas of blocks of flats. The CSOs engaged with young people to involve them in diversionary activity, and distributed flyers with prevention messaging through the Schools Liaison Officers.
The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 29 April. The Act is a landmark piece of legislation. Its overarching purpose is to improve the public sector response in Wales to gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. One of the first provisions of the Act to come into effect will be the appointment of a National Adviser, expected to be in post by the autumn.
The 10,000 Safer Lives Project specifically addresses a key Programme for Government commitment to ensure ‘all relevant service providers and organisations are able to identify the signs of domestic abuse and are able to effectively support individuals experiencing Domestic abuse. Between April 2011 and March 2015, over 14,000 individuals considered themselves to be safer, or to feel safer, as a result of the direct support from specialist organisations funded by the Welsh Government. In 2014-15, we ran campaigns in relation to Making a Stand, White Ribbon, a TV advert around Christmas and in February called ‘Cross the Line’ and Targeting Perpetrators. Four Cymru have been awarded a contract to develop and deliver three campaigns for 2015-16.
We have made significant achievements on preventing and diverting children and young people away from offending with a 54% reduction in the number of first time entrants into the youth justice system between 2010-11 and 2013-14. The number of children and young people in custody has reduced by 57% over the same period. Children and Young People First, our joint strategy with the Youth Justice Board (YJB), brings together the Welsh Government and YJB’s vision and commitment to improve services for children and young people from Wales at risk of becoming involved in, or who are in, the youth justice system. In 2015-16 the Welsh Government has maintained the level of funding in the Youth Crime Prevention Fund at £5 million to support projects which contribute to preventing offending and reoffending by young people.
Slavery is an extremely emotive issue which has seen some high profile cases in recent months and tackling this requires co-ordinated action. The response in Wales has been strengthened by the appointment of the Anti-Slavery Co-ordinator to co-ordinate the best possible support for survivors.
An example of this support is the delivery of a specialist training programme for 50 Senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) and Crown Prosecution Service Prosecutors. Another example is the development of a ‘Survivor Care Pathway’ which, after being piloted in Cardiff, is being rolled-out across Wales.
Recently we saw the landmark Forced Marriage case heard in Merthyr Tydfil resulting in a 16 year prison sentence. This highlights that these ‘hidden’ crimes are happening in Wales and there is more work to be done to ensure we can effectively tackle them, with our partners, and make people safer.
There continues to be strong progress in reducing the dangers of fire to citizens, communities and businesses. Since responsibility for fire was devolved in 2004-05, the overall incidence of fire has fallen by over 50%, with the number of dwelling fires down by over 25% and the number of deliberate fires down by over 60%. In addition, casualties from fires have fallen by over 20%, deaths by almost 40% and the Fire Service has provided home fire safety checks to almost 600,000 households in Wales.
Through the Wales Resilience Forum we have a means of directly engaging with senior officers from the emergency services, Local Authorities and other agencies to work collectively to identify and respond to risks. A key example of this was the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit held in Newport last September, which saw one of the largest security and safety operations ever held in the UK. The preparations for that event built upon the existing response infrastructure and the command and control arrangements we have developed here in Wales.
In the current climate, we are all aware of the prevalence of terrorism and extremism. We are supporting new and proposed UK Government legislation to tackle these issues through well-established partnerships to ensure implementation takes into account the devolved landscape in Wales. There are good examples of positive partnership work taking place in Wales including anti-extremism awareness events which have taken place in Cardiff over recent months with a particular focus on women and young people. Nevertheless, even with the proactive, preventative work taking place, Wales is not immune to the threats posed by terrorism and extremism. I have therefore agreed capital and revenue funding to ensure there are National Resilience and Marauding Terrorist Fire Arm capabilities within Wales.
Tackling substance misuse remains a priority for the Welsh Government and we have continued our significant investment in a range of actions as part of our 10 year strategy “Working Together to Reduce Harm”. We are liaising with the UK Government over the new psychoactive substances bill being proposed and the debate on the need for the European Union to have a new alcohol strategy.