Sadly for far too many people, home is not a place of refuge. Across the UK, domestic abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men within their lifetime, sweeping away all forms of safety and security normally associated with the home. (ONS, 2021). COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem in recent years, making plain the urgent need for comprehensive and sustainable solutions.
In April 2021, the UK government's passing of the Domestic Abuse Bill signalled their commitment to ending the injustice. Shaped by those who have experienced this form of abuse and professionals calling for change, The Act introduced new
protective measures for survivors
criminal classifications for perpetrators,
and a legally recognised definition of 'domestic abuse' for the first time.
Along with the welcomed measures, one major change was that all survivors would automatically be deemed a priority for housing assistance. Previously this was not always the case and survivors of domestic abuse often struggled to secure safe places to stay, leaving them in dangerous situations and with no choice but to ‘sofa-surf’, sleep rough or return to the perpetrators of the abuse (DAH Alliance, 2021).
However, nearly a year on, a recent news report by the Guardian shows that domestic abuse still remains responsible for a staggering 1 in 6 new homeless cases across England and Wales (Guardian, 2022). Highlighting that there is still a strong disconnect between policy commitments and pragmatic responses.
One of the main challenges continues to be the major lack of housing options for individuals and their families who have recently fled domestic abuse, especially for individuals from minority communities and / or with complex needs.
As an example, huge barriers exist for those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, due to a scarcity of dedicated domestic abuse support services and for individuals who have migrated to the UK and have no recourse to public funds. These individuals face challenges as they are not automatically eligible for long-term housing assistance and their support options are severely lacking (Leeway Support, 2022).
Concerns have subsequently been raised about whether local authorities have the necessary resources available to ensure survivors are given the level of housing assistance they need. AS mentioned earlier, the pandemic led to a dramatic increase in domestic abuse incidents as lockdown measures made it harder for victims to escape their abuser and as a result, local authorities quickly became overwhelmed with people seeking sanctuary.
Naturally, this has meant that significant, countrywide pre-existing housing challenges – such as the lack of temporary and permanent accommodation have become even more pressing.
Despite the expanding political attention that has been given to this social issue, it is abundantly clear that more high-quality housing services need to be developed for survivors of domestic abuse.
At Safe As Houses, we strive to be a leading provider of solutions with a committed mission to enhance the lives of society's most vulnerable individuals. As we widen our work, we will continue to empower our partners to find housing-based solutions to alleviate this devastating injustice and to effect tangible, national change.
So, as we reflect on this appalling situation, it's vitally important to remember the meaning of home: A home should be a place of safety not of violence. And having a home that a person feels safe and secure within is also vital for recovery.
DAH Alliance, 2021. Whole Housing Approach. [Online] Available at: https://www.dahalliance.org.uk/what-we-do/whole-housing-approach/guidance-resources [Accessed 22 February 2022].
Guardian, 2022. Homelessness Statistics England and Wales Domestic Abuse. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/27/homelessness-statistics-england-domestic-abuse [Accessed 22 February 2022].
Leeway Support, 2022. Links between domestic abuse and homelessness. [Online] Available at: https://www.leewaysupport.org/blog/links-between-domestic-abuse-and-homelessness [Accessed 22 February 2022].
ONS, 2021. Domestic Abuse in UK Overview. [Online] Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2021 [Accessed 22 February 2022].