Solace greatly welcome the announcement from the Government that councils will now bear the legal responsibility to provide refuge space for those fleeing domestic abuse. Solace alongside our colleagues in the sector have been calling for this accountability for a long time and we look forward to seeing what positive change this could make to the lives of those seeking support.
Refuges are in crisis and this policy change couldn’t have come at a more important moment. The latest figures show that 60% of referrals to all refuges in England were refused in the year 2017/18 because there was insufficient funding or no available space for the victim. The current system has created an unfortunate ‘postcode lottery’ where you will be more likely to access a refuge if you live in a certain area. We can and must do everything in our power to ensure no survivor is faced with the choice between living with abuse or homelessness.
When a survivor escapes from an abusive situation, it is not solely accommodation that they need to move forward. We must also ensure that there is vital emotional and practical support available, including specialist support for those with varied needs, including children, those with disabilities, BAME women and those with drug and alcohol issues.
In keeping with this, it is critical that we do not assume all victims of domestic abuse are the same and that our policies reflect this.
CEO Mary Mason says ‘Domestic abuse is a varied crime that is carried out on individuals of all backgrounds and demands a flexible approach. If we are truly to help those who have been impacted by abuse we need to involve multiple services that are trained to have an in-depth understanding of the different ways in which trauma can manifest.’
The Home Office currently estimates the cost of domestic abuse to England & Wales is £66 billion a year, taking into account the impact it has on victim support, emergency, health and criminal justice services. We know that if we have the foresight to allocate funding into developing a holistic and coordinated approach to supporting survivors as well as focusing on prevention work, the overall cost to the government would reduce.
Our report ‘The Price of Safety’ examined how the housing system is failing women and children who are fleeing domestic abuse. It crucially highlighted what happens after refuge. Women are suddenly without support and find they have to move multiple times, often into insecure accommodation which does not provide the stability needed to live an independent life. We call on the government to address not just crisis accommodation, but also the support for resettlement so that survivors have a chance to truly rebuild and move on from the domestic abuse they have suffered.
It is our aim that all women and children affected by abuse are given safe accommodation, specialist support and the stability needed to build safer lives and stronger futures for the long term.
To read more about the issue read the BBC article here or listen to our CEO Mary Mason speaking on BBC News tonight on iPlayer catch up.