Response: Support for victims of domestic abuse in safe accommodation

By: Stephanie Kleynhans  Published: August 2019


Summary

Domestic abuse is an increasing problem. The recording of domestic abuse-related crimes has risen over the past few years. In England and Wales, the police recorded 599,549 domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2018. This was an increase of 42% from the year ending March 2016.

The Home Office estimate that domestic abuse resulted in £550 million in housing costs to Government in the year ending March 2017, including temporary housing, homelessness services and repairs and maintenance. It is pertinent we ensure that the response is effective to minimise the impact both on survivors and the state.

Domestic abuse is, by its very nature, a housing issue, as well as a criminal one, because domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) typically occur within the home. So, the response from the public and private housing, and homelessness, sectors is crucial in delivering an effective response.

Lack of access to safe, secure housing is a major barrier to escaping abuse and features strongly in a survivors’ decision-making about whether they stay with, or leave, an abuser. If survivors cannot find another suitable home (e.g. because they cannot afford it alone), they can be at risk  of homelessness. Survivors can be confronted with the ‘option’ of facing homelessness and housing insecurity or having to return to a perpetrator.

  • Along with the rest of the sector, Shelter are calling for a ‘whole housing approach’ to ensure that no survivor is faced with such a devastating choice. A ‘whole housing’ approach tackles the interconnected issues of housing, homelessness and domestic abuse, and violence against women and girls, in a consistent, joined up way.
  • It aims to improve the response of the housing sector to domestic abuse and deliver a full suite of safe housing options to survivors (including remaining in owner-occupation, renting in the private or social sectors – including via Housing First, supported hostel accommodation, or remaining in the original home as part of a sanctuary schemes).
  • This must be underpinned by specialist refuge provision to deliver specialist support to women and children escaping from life-threatening harm.
  • We welcome the government’s commitment to deliver a secure future for refuge services through the proposed statutory duty. But funding for refuges and other forms of safe accommodation for survivors remains insufficient to meet demand. This must be addressed.
  • We are calling for a clear commitment from national government for a sustainable funding settlement to accompany important changes proposed in the Domestic Abuse Bill. This includes sustainable funding for all elements of specialist support provision, and an effective multi-agency response from statutory services.

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