Controversial Women’s Group Shut
Funding for an organisation to help abused women has been withdrawn after accusations of bullying of staff, BBC Wales has learned. There were also allegations of callous treatment of vulnerable women and questionable financial transactions at Ynys Mon Women’s Aid. The service closed following investigations by Anglesey Council and Tai Eryri Housing Association. The service is now being provided by Bangor Women’s Aid.
Reports into Ynys Mon Women’s Aid found it had an oppressive environment, favouritism, no whistle-blowing policy, no transparency in recruitment, no complaints procedure, failure of financial controls, confusion and disorder. Funded by public money to help women who had suffered from violence, the investigation found it had £100,000 in the bank but lacked beds in one of its refuges.
Staff told BBC Wales’ Dragon’s Eye programme that they were bullied and disempowered and women in the refuge treated arbitrarily. Jo Clinton who used to work for the organisation said: “I can honestly say in all my career working I have never personally been abused the way I was when I worked for Ynys Mon Women’s Aid. I would say it was an emotional abuse.”
Two other former workers, Jamie Crank and Claire Bailey complained to the umbrella organisation Welsh Women’s Aid, which although unable to investigate, passed on the complaints to Anglesey Council and Tai Eryri Housing Association.
Jamie Crank said: “I’ve been through a refuge in Wales to escape domestic violence. I have no doubt if we had come through Ynys Mon we would have gone back.” But two former directors, Ann Owen and Janet Hughes said staff who complained were unable to understand domestic abuse, had little knowledge of the group’s history and were seeking to destroy it.
In a joint statement, they said: “Ynys Mon Women’s Aid has for many years struggled when recruiting to find the quality of applicants needed to bear the responsibility, comprehension and sensitivity of their role as a worker and within the workers collective.”
They said they were monitored by Anglesey Council and Tai Eryri Housing Association for 13 years and that they “chose to disband because we were unable to work with those who sought to destroy us.”
Another director, Rhian Humphreys denied bullying and said she regretted becoming a director. She said she felt isolated and could see things happening but felt powerless to stop it.
Ynys Mon Women’s Aid was a member of Welsh Women’s Aid, which was powerless to investigate the complaints made by the two workers.
Director of Welsh Women’s Aid Elen Pierce said: “The reality is Welsh Women’s Aid is an umbrella organisation it has a membership each of which is autonomous and independent. There are codes of practice and policies developed by us.
“As soon as I received complaints I immediately referred those to the funders and as Women’s Aid doesn’t have powers of investigation, it was at that point that Ynys Mon and Tai Eryri asked us to act as honest brokers and would we work with them during the investigation which is what we did.”
She described what happened at Ynys Mon as “completely inappropriate but at least now that has been dealt with.”