It shouldn’t take a pandemic to expose why survivors of domestic abuse need a safe home

Hannah Gousy, Head of Policy and Campaigns

In the past few weeks reports of domestic abuse have soared. The number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline was 49% higher than normal after three weeks. Tragically, the Counting Dead Women Project has reported that 14 women and two children had been killed in the first three of lockdown. This figure is the largest number of killings in a three-week period for 11 years.

The Coronavirus outbreak has laid bare the extreme dangers that people fleeing domestic abuse face, and has highlighted, now more than ever, the importance of guaranteeing people made homeless in this situation a legal right to safe, settled housing.

It’s only right that anybody facing domestic abuse should be able to go to their council and be offered a safe, permanent home.  But right now, not everyone in this situation is guaranteed this. Rather, in addition to proving that you have been made homeless as result of domestic abuse, you also have to prove that you are more vulnerable than someone else who is also facing homelessness. Proving vulnerability is extremely traumatic and near impossible for those fleeing abuse, with people having to relive, in great detail, accounts of the violence they’ve suffered. What’s more, it risks putting people fleeing abuse back in the line of danger. We have heard stories of women asked for crime reference numbers and in some cases a letter from a perpetrator detailing the abuse.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness, backed by the support of the domestic abuse and homelessness sectors, and driven by the experiences of survivors, has been leading a campaign to prevent people in this situation from becoming homeless by ensuring that anyone fleeing domestic abuse has the right to a safe home without having to prove vulnerability. Research carried out on behalf of the APPG has shown that this change in the law would provide an offer of a safe home to an additional 2,000 people a year. For all of these people, this would have a transformative impact on their lives, and for some this measure will be lifesaving. 

The Domestic Abuse Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, is our chance to make this happen. The Bill had its Second Reading in Parliament yesterday. During the course of the debate we heard speeches from MPs, from different parties, championing the APPG’s proposed amendment.

 

Earlier in the week, the Home Affairs Select Committee also lent its weight to the campaign, recommending that those fleeing domestic abuse are considered in automatic priority need in order to protect them during the Coronavirus outbreak.  

As we move toward the next stage of the Bill’s passage through Parliament, there is now considerable cross-party support for this amendment. What’s more the Government have already committed to providing the majority of funding needed to deliver this change as part of their plans to place a new duty on councils to provide temporary accommodation-based services for people fleeing domestic abuse. Complimenting this measure, the APPG’s amendment would ensure that in addition to the temporary accommodation needed in an emergency, survivors have the permanent housing needed to rebuild their lives.

We have the chance to provide a lifeline to survivors when home is no longer safe, we must not miss it.

Take action now and write to the Housing Secretary using our handy template.

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