Perpetrators of domestic violence in England – not their victims – must be removed from the family home | Domestic violence
Councils in England are looking at ways to provide housing for perpetrators of domestic violence so their victims can stay in the family home, in response to growing calls from some charities and activists.
The recently passed domestic abuse law requires councils to publish a strategy to provide housing assistance for victims and children. Some councils are currently developing plans that include housing for offenders as well as measures for victims.
Sunderland City Council’s draft strategy, which is pending approval, says alternative accommodation should be made available to abusers. “Women and their children should not have to leave their homes. Women saw this as disruptive to themselves and their children and unnecessary if safety plans can be put in place to protect themselves and their children.
“The women identified a key factor for their recovery would be the provision of alternative housing for the abuser.”
There have been growing calls for more ways to relocate abusers, including an open letter to the government last year. A recent report from the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance stated that “without the ability to remove and relocate an abuser, victims, including children, will continue to suffer by being trapped in abusive relationships or being forced to flee their homes. “.
The report states that such an approach should be victim-led and informed, with risk assessment and perpetrator management. It refers to instances where police and judges have been reluctant to issue domestic violence protection notices and orders in case they render the abuser homeless, and other instances where abusers are housed in mixed homeless housing alongside homeless victims of abuse.
Dorset Council has made housing for abusers part of its domestic violence strategy.
These plans build on recent pilot projects in London, North Yorkshire and the North East.
However, some organizations are skeptical of such initiatives. Isabelle Younane, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at Women’s Aid, said: “While staying at home may be the right choice for some women, a woman may not feel safe at home because the abuser knows the address and could easily come back.
“In addition, for many women, this is not an option and the only option is to flee to a vital refuge.
“We also know that women often face complex and costly legal issues, such as transferring a roommate to their name, when trying to stay at home, and affordability is often a constant concern.
“Based on these and other challenges, Women’s Aid does not approve funding for this program as shelters remain grossly underfunded. Shelters are more than just a roof over the head of a survivor – they offer life-saving holistic support, community therapy, financial stability and more.
“Yet despite the services provided by shelters, women are still turned away, due to lack of capacity and funding. This gap must be adequately bridged to ensure the safety of women and children.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “Developing a comprehensive and effective response to perpetrators of violence is integral to preventing domestic violence. We firmly believe that the right interventions at the right time can prevent abuse from happening, reoccurring or escalating.
“We would like this to be prioritized at the government level – and look forward to the government’s National Strategy to Combat Domestic Violence, which should focus on interventions against perpetrators. We will also support interdepartmental efforts to address options for housing abusers, so that the abusive partner is removed and victims are not forced to leave their homes for their safety.
A government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to radically changing the way we end violence against women, supporting survivors and prosecuting perpetrators, committing £ 25million this year to hold them to account.
“The obligations set out in the Domestic Violence Act are to provide appropriate support to victims and their children who need to find safe housing, rather than supporting perpetrators.
“We would expect abusers to make their own arrangements for a living. However, councils have statutory obligations to prevent and alleviate homelessness, ensuring that support and counseling is provided to all eligible people. “