Violence against women and girls, housing and homelessness: A joined up strategy
On Wednesday 24th March 2021 we launched new research highlighting the impact of the pandemic on women and children made homeless by domestic abuse and violence in an unforgiving housing crisis – one year on from the first lockdown.
Since the first lockdown, we have seen fluctuations in calls and referrals to our services in line with restrictions tightening and easing, acting like a pressure valve on abuse and on survivors’ access to help. July 2021 was the busiest month on our advice line since the pandemic began.
The Domestic Abuse Act reached Royal Assent at the end of April 2021 and contains important measures to address some of the failures we identified in our 2019 report ‘Safe as Houses’. But it was never designed to address the impact of the pandemic on VAWG and the unparalleled number of survivors reaching crisis point and becoming unsafe in their homes in the last 18 months.
Without addressing the medium and long-term housing needs of survivors of VAWG, the combined impact of lockdown on VAWG and the short-term accommodation provided by the Act risks creating a logjam of need and incentivising further gatekeeping by local authorities in an already unforgiving housing landscape, harming survivors and increasing costs.
Uncertain housing and the fear of homelessness should never be a barrier to a life free from abuse. To ensure that women can access safe and secure housing, we are calling on:
The Government to:
Clarify the interaction of the duties in the Domestic Abuse Act and the existing housing and homelessness duties and make clear in statutory guidance to local authorities that survivors’ self-determined assessments of their needs and risks must guide them.
Make the Universal Credit uplift permanent and provide the current 5-week loan as a grant for survivors of VAWG.
Exempt survivors of VAWG from the benefit cap, 2-child limit and shared accommodation rate for survivors under 35.
The London Mayor and Greater London Authority to:
Adopt a Whole Housing Approach to commissioning safe accommodation under the new duty including flexible funding, as recommended by Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse.
Commission a mix of safe accommodation including wholly funded places available for women with no recourse to public funds and funding allocations for immigration support and intensive resettlement support as provided in the emergency refuge.
Ring-fence a minimum of 20% of any funding for ending rough sleeping for women, to ensure street homeless women can access safe and suitable women-only accommodation with specialist VAWG support where needed.
London local authorities to:
Fund a co-located housing IDVA in their housing departments and commission regular specialist VAWG and homelessness training for housing officers.
Ring-fence a minimum of five per cent of social housing lettings, plus five per cent of all permanent new social homes built in London each year to women and children made homeless through VAWG.
Automatically award all women accepted for rehousing as a result of VAWG the highest possible banding/points.
Adopt and apply minimum standards to temporary accommodation such as Southwark’s Good Homes Standard.
If you are interested in our public affairs work on housing, contact Erin Mansell, Public Affairs Manager: [email protected]
Find out how you can support our campaign to make sure no one has to choose between abuse and a home.