TACKLING domestic violence – against both men and women – in Ceredigion and supporting victims has been highlighted by those on the frontline in Cardigan.

Members of Ceredigion County Council’s healthier communities overview and scrutiny committee asked for more information on what services are available in Ceredigion.

They welcomed representatives from Cardigan-based West Wales Domestic Abuse service as well as Gwalia, whose independent domestic abuse advisers help intervene with immediate safety issues.

Adult and families manager Kerina Waft and refuge and helpline manager Eirian Griffiths outlined work carried out by the abuse service and its work with other agencies to support victims.

This includes the use of the two refuges in the county that can house nine adults and 22 children, often used as a “stepping stone” for those wanting to live independently but struggling after abuse.

In 2017-18 there were 479 referrals made to the service, 309 of which were new referrals, and 60 families were accommodated, the committee heard.

Members were reminded that it can often take someone an average of seven times to fully leave an abusive relationship.

Twenty five per cent of the referrals last year were aged 26 to 35 and eight per cent were over 55, there were also 172 children and young people referred, 139 of which were new cases.

Concerns about the introduction of Universal Credit were raised by Cllr Mark Strong and Ms Griffiths said it could be “detrimental.”

“With regards Universal Credit that’s going to be going to one person in the family and with that, if you’re suffering financial difficulty or financial abuse, how do you manage? We have had people come through our door who have had to steal to get baby milk.

“Even if it was a small amount from child benefit or tax credits they had it but now you have nothing, it will have a detrimental impact,” she said.

The service also runs a 24-hour helpline, one to one support, supports children in school and has an educational programme for secondary pupils which focuses on many elements including respectful relationships, sexual consent, gender stereotyping and sexual exploitation.

Ms Waft highlighted the ‘freedom programme’ which “breaks down experiences of domestic abuse” after it becomes normalised and the victims believes they are at fault.

There was a “holistic approach” members were told with a focus on improving the lives of victims not just by moving them to safety but also boosting confidence with a “significant increase in their well-being” recorded.

Committee chairman Cllr Alun Lloyd Jones asked about resources and was told there was a “small but strong team” with Ms Griffiths adding: “We do ask an awful lot of our staff and they go over and above what a lot of people would be able to do.”

So-called ‘honour violence’ and female genital mutilation issues do occur in Ceredigion the committee was told, despite an assumption it was more an urban problem.