Historic victory on domestic violence

1 July 2009

picture of mother and child

Shelter has welcomed a new ruling that women staying in temporary refuges after fleeing their homes due to domestic violence will be considered homeless and have proper rights to find a permanent home.

The declaration by The House of Lords overturns the previous situation where only women who registered with a local authority were deemed homeless. Women who stayed in refuges first after fleeing abusive partners were considered ‘adequately housed’, and were potentially making themselves ‘intentionally homeless’ if they left the refuge.

The decision comes after Shelter and barristers set, Kings Chambers, fought the case of Ms Moran, a mother of two children who stayed in a city refuge after all three fled the family home. When she left the refuge she applied to the city council as homeless, but after spending three weeks in temporary accommodation, her application was refused.

Shelter and Kings Chambers said that often it is not the woman who determines where she is taken. She could be moved directly to a refuge by the police, or referred by a hospital following domestic violence. If it is the woman’s decision it’s usually taken during a moment of great stress that could determine her accommodation status for years for both her and her children.

Shelter solicitor Helen Jackson, who acted on behalf of Ms Moran, said: ‘Many already vulnerable women who have turned to local authorities for help after fleeing violent partners have been told they are not homeless or have made themselves homeless.

‘Today’s ruling means that in most cases a local authority can no longer refuse a homelessness application because she is staying in a refuge or other emergency accommodation. Local authorities must now offer women priority housing to help them rebuild their lives.’

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