No woman should ever have to flee her home due to violence and abuse only to end up homeless, but this is exactly what is happening right now in our capital. Equally, women are being forced to stay with abusive partners as they rightfully fear losing their home and security.
Our new research into how London’s housing and homelessness systems are failing women and children who try to escape violence and abuse is being published today. The Safe as Houses report will be launched by London’s leading domestic and sexual violence charity, Solace, at a City Hall conference hosted by the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) with a keynote address from the Mayor’s Office
- Fear of homelessness is keeping women in dangerous situations – Almost half of women fleeing secure tenancies said that fear of losing their tenancy had been a barrier to leaving the perpetrator
- Seeking shelter can be a long and arduous process – nearly 1 in 3 women make 6 or more approaches to seek safe accommodation, only to be turned away
- Seeking safety damages most women’s housing prospects
- 2 out of 3 women have had a negative experience of the Local Authority housing services
- Relocation due to VAWG causes wide-scale disruption, and the majority of women need to move more than once
Alarming rates of violence against women and girls in London, which continue to increase, combined with the worsening housing crisis, creates a desperate situation for so many of the most vulnerable, and it is clear that drastic action is needed. Domestic abuse offences in London increased by 63% between 2011 and 2018. Tragically, in 2018 there were 29 domestic homicides, up from just 9 the previous year and reports of rape and sexual assault increased by over 20% last year.
One year on from the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017), Solace, set out to investigate the impact of the legislation. So far the insights in the report show the Act has failed to deliver the hoped for improvements for women seeking safety in London.
The landscape has been bleak for so many women made homeless through abuse. All too often, they can involve navigating complex systems, dealing with gatekeeping and disbelief. However, there is hope and homelessness can be prevented. Our evidence shows that women escaping abuse who receive specialist support from Solace, are more than twice as likely to be housed by the Local Authority. Having someone by your side – on your side – at any and all of the stages of the journey to safety leads to massive cost savings to both the human and social costs, and can literally save the lives of women and children in London.
Fiona Dwyer, CEO of Solace, said:
“The Safe as Houses report reaffirms our long-term commitment to putting housing at the top of the agenda for women fleeing violence and abuse. It evidences the need for radical change but also offers solutions to improve the situation for women fleeing abuse in London. Last year we supported 22,816 women, children and men across all our services, providing us with a deep body of evidence and important insights from our users and staff, who tell us that lack of safe housing is the number one barrier to leaving. This is why we are calling on London change-makers to commit to 3 key actions that will materially improve the situation of all survivors made homeless through abuse.”
Solace calls for commitment from London
- London homes are allocated to women fleeing abuse (At least 5% of Local Authority social housing lettings, plus 5% of all permanent new social homes built in London, are allocated each year to women and children made homeless through abuse.)
- Every London borough ensure women made homeless from abuse are made a priority for safe, secure, suitable housing.
- Every London borough puts in place strategies to ensure a clear pathway for women threatened with homelessness or made homeless due to abuse.
James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing & Residential Development, said: “It is appalling that vulnerable women are forced to stay in dangerous situations because they are afraid of becoming homeless. At City Hall, we have given extra priority to tenants who are survivors of domestic violence to move, and we are funding 200 homes specifically to help them and former rough sleepers move on with their lives. We will work with councils to do all we can, but the Government must also step up and give us the funding and powers we need to build enough safe and secure homes so no woman ever has to stay in an abusive environment.”
Deputy Mayor of Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, said: “It is entirely unacceptable that vulnerable women feel like they have to stay in an abusive environment in order to have a roof over their heads. The Mayor is absolutely determined to do everything in his power to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. That is why he is investing a further £15 million IN services that give survivors the support they need to build a life without fear of violence, which is alongside THE £10m he commits every year in programmes that deliver ongoing support for victims and fund rehabilitation projects for perpetrators of domestic violence.”