Inspiring Thursday: Alice Lilley, Welsh Women’s Aid

Welsh Women’s Aid is the national charity in Wales working to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women. Welsh Women’s Aid is a federation of specialist organisations in Wales (working as part of a UK network of services) that provides lifesaving services to survivors of violence and abuse – women, men, children, families – and delivers a range of innovative preventative services in local communities.

Today, we are giving the spotlight to Alice Lilley who is working at Welsh Women’s Aid, 1 of our 15 Members from the United Kingdom. She shares with us more about our Welsh WAVE Member in the following interview conducted by Raphaelle Jouannic.

Interview with Alice Lilley from Welsh Women’s Aid

What can you tell us about Welsh Women’s Aid?

Alice Lilley: We are the national umbrella body in Wales and we represent our member groups who are specialist sector providers of domestic abuse and sexual violence services. In Wales, we have the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Act. The legislation means that we incorporate all forms of violence against women, including domestic abuse, and sexual violence in our work. It includes campaigning and lobbying to our government, supporting our members in delivering high quality services, campaigning and promotional work. We also have a project to enable survivors to have a voice at all levels in Wales. Our commitment to survivors is to input their voices into the work of our government, and to help all sectors in Wales, including commissioners and services, to make sure that the work they’re doing takes them into account.

We are also involved in Change that Lasts with the Women’s Aid Federation in England. This is a model to promote support around domestic abuse which is strength-based, needs- led and trauma informed. We’re piloting training for professionals and communities to enable earlier intervention for survivors and promoting services that are more responsive to what survivors need. We’re also working with commissioners to look at different models of services around domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Why did you decide to look at a new model?

A.L.: While we recognise that risk is something that we do always need to be thinking about, violence against women services sometimes overly focused on risk.  We now want to go back to this approach of supporting survivors and acknowledging that they need support at all points in their journey, and that it’s not just about monitoring high-risk situations. Currently in the UK, resources are allocated according to the level of risk, but this means that many survivors are left behind and opportunities to support someone before the risk elevates are missed.

Is collaborating with the Welsh government on domestic abuse and sexual violence issues possible?

A.L.: I think we’re lucky in Wales. The Welsh government is easier to engage with than the UK government as a whole! This is a very small country which means we can build up quite good relationships with politicians and government departments. There are some parts of the Welsh government that listens to what we’re saying, and will push to promote women’s services in their agenda. There is however always more we can do, there is always the need for more resources, and there are key areas we are campaigning around. For example, funding for specialist children’s services and a recogniton that sexual exploitation should be recognized within the VAWG agenda in Wales.

That is definitely very important.

A.L.: I think the things that we struggle with the most are the things that do not only involve Wales, so the criminal justice system, for example: the police, the court, the family court. All these things are more UK-wide than Welsh-specific. It’s evolving though, like the new Domestic Violence Act, which has started to take steps to deal with some of these areas. It’s slow, but I guess we’re gradually getting there. (laughs)

Why is it important to raise survivors’ voices?

A.L.: We don’t want to be speaking for survivors, we want to be hearing directly from them, we want the Welsh government to hear how politics, laws, and services have an impact on survivors and what their issues are, what are the barriers to accessing services. It’s all about making sure we are lifting up survivors’ voices. Survivors come from their own individual experience and have different backgrounds, and we’re really clear about that. We want to make sure the survivor’s point of views are included in our actions. We’re looking at doing more and trying to engage with children and young people as well. It’s important.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing with your organisation?

A.L.: I think it’s sustainable funding. Funding is still inconsistent across Wales and grants often cover short term projects for six months to a year, especially during COVID, the funding was very specific. However, survivors really need long-term commitment. Organisations are trying to put in place long-term plans to do more prevention work, because it is often a stretch to do everything when there are only short-term projects being funded. We are thinking about long-term outcomes and need sustainable funding to achieve that.  I also think that retaining workers and staff is, at the moment, a problem in Wales. Without sustainable funding the sector cannot offer competitive wages to workers.

What does it mean for you to be part of a network, to be part of the WAVE Network?

A.L.: It’s very positive. I think it’s important to hear how every country and organisation is doing, to learn what works, to look at different practices. You also connect with other women who do similar work. It’s a powerful learning experience and also interesting from a feminist perspective to share our experiences and hear from other women’s services and survivors across different national boundaries.

In Wales we can also contribute to the network. We’re interested to share our work with others. We’re excited to be running a workshop at the conference.

Why did you want to participate in the conference and lead this workshop?

A.L.: We’re working on an amazing project, the prevention “Blue Print”, where we have researched the key concepts which underpin an approach to preventing VAWG and are proposing a way forward for the country to centre prevention. Last year we published a report outlining this and we want to promote it while highlighting the work we’re doing around prevention. This aims to ensure a co-ordinated, ‘whole-system’ response, which recognises that successfully tackling VAWG is dependent on all prevention interventions. It is promoting the agreement of a set of National Indicators for prevention interventions at all levels and regular collection of data on a local and national level to monitor progress against these indicators. We have been looking at how prevention works, and I think it’s great to share our findings with others.

We want to thank Alice Lilley and Welsh Women’s Aid for this informative interview, as well as their work, efforts and dedication within the WAVE Network. We look forward to hearing more about the prevention project during the 23rd WAVE Conference which will be happening online on October 6-7, 2021. The title of this year’s conference is Breaking the CyclePreventing and Tackling Sexualized Violence against Women and Children and is being organized in collaboration in our Portuguese WAVE Member Associação de Mulheres contra a Violência (AMCV).

Written by WAVE Intern Raphaelle Jouannic

Our last Inspiring Thursday: Sara Seerat

Welsh Women’s Aid on social media:

Welsh Women’s Aid (@welshwomensaid) • Instagram photos and videos

Welsh Women’s Aid | Facebook

WelshWomensAid (@WelshWomensAid) / Twitter

More on the Welsh Women’s Aid Website:

Welsh Women’s Aid | Working to end violence against women (