Prioritise The Safety and Housing Needs of Women and Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse During COVID-19

This weekend (Sunday August 24th), the government is due to lift the ban on evictions put in place to protect people from being evicted during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Solace Women’s Aid (Solace) calls on the government and local authorities to urgently prioritise the safety and housing needs of women and children experiencing domestic abuse and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), as reported cases of domestic abuse have soared during lockdown.  

Reported cases of domestic abuse continue to spike across the country with the Metropolitan Police, which covers London, reporting its officers were arresting on average 100 people a day for domestic abuse offences during the Covid-19 lockdown (figures from April 2020). 

“This pandemic is happening alongside an existing violence against women and girls (VAWG) crisis overlapping with a housing an homelessness crisis, the consequences of which Solace sees daily as a frontline domestic abuse organisation running women’s refuges and holistic services for women and children”, said Fiona Dwyer, CEO Solace. 

“For the majority of women, fleeing abuse is intrinsically linked to them being able to find somewhere to live. This becomes an even bigger struggle for women with insecure immigration status and No Recourse to Public Funds. The current system is failing to protect women and children and the most vulnerable amongst them when they need it the most,” said Dwyer. 

In the summer of 2019, Solace released its report ‘Safe as Houses’ documenting how the broken housing system is further impacting women and children trying to survive domestic abuse how domestic abuse is one of the main drivers of women’s homelessness including rough sleeping across the country and especially in London. 

Solace carried out research into current homelessness practice across London, including the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA, 2017), has so far failed to deliver the changes needed for women to be safe.  

Our in depth research with survivors found that: 

  • Fear of homelessness is keeping women in dangerous situations. 

  • Seeking safety damages most women’s housing prospects. 

  • The majority of women Solace works with have had a negative experience of Local Homeless services.  

  • The needs and circumstances of women fleeing VAWG are poorly understood by statutory services. 

Solace calls for 5% of Local Authority social housing, lettings, plus 5% of all permanent and social homes in London to be allocated each year to women and children impacted by VAWG.  

For every London Borough to sign an agreement to sign up to providing priority housing to victims and survivors of VAWG and their children. 

For women who accepted to be rehoused as a result of VAWG to be awarded the highest possible banding and points, and for women who have to move boroughs for safety to maintain their priority housing status through boroughs. 

Solace calls for a cross department strategy and a clear pathway to be created for women threatened with homelessness due to VAWG.  

You can read Solace’s Safe as Houses report here: 

https://www.solacewomensaid.org/get-informed/professional-resourcessafe-houses-report-how-system-failing-women-and-children-fleeing