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Not vulnerable enough for help: Nearly 2,000 domestic abuse survivors put at risk of homelessness a year

Survivors of domestic abuse in England are being left at risk of homelessness because local authority rules state they aren’t vulnerable enough for help with finding permanent housing, according to a new report published by Crisis and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness (APPGEH) today.

A Safe Home: Breaking the link between homelessness and domestic abuse showed that in any given year, an estimated 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse in England are not being provided with a safe home by their local authority housing teams because under the current system, not everyone fleeing domestic abuse in England is considered in “priority need”.

This means that many survivors are being refused assistance with finding a safe, permanent home where they can begin to rebuild their lives and escape the dangers of the abuse they have experienced.

The findings – based on an FOI of 168 councils across the country – paint a bleak picture of the harrowing situation people experiencing abuse are left in. Faced with the prospect of nowhere to turn, many survivors have no option but to return to their abusers or face the dangers of homelessness.

Crisis and the APPGEH are calling for the government to urgently amend the Domestic Abuse Bill so that it extends priority need status to all victims who are homeless because of domestic abuse, guaranteeing them a safe and settled home.

The government recently announced measures to ensure that all survivors have access to temporary support in emergency refuges, but this doesn’t go far enough, according to Crisis and the APPGEH.

While refuges are an incredibly important resource providing both shelter and vital mental, physical, and emotional support, in the long term, people fleeing abuse need safe and stable homes to rebuild their lives in. Without this, people face the prospect of being stuck in temporary accommodation for months or even years on end with their lives on hold.

This is particularly important as latest official figures show the number of people who have become homeless because of domestic abuse is alarmingly high. Government statistics released last week show that in 2018, 5,380 households were made homeless in England over a three-month period directly because of domestic abuse.

Meanwhile, Crisis’ own services support hundreds of survivors each year, with one in five of its female members having had their homelessness caused by domestic abuse.

Neil Coyle MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness, said: “It’s beyond heart-breaking that people fleeing for their lives are being forced to choose between homelessness or returning to their abusers because the services that should have found them a safe home, don’t consider them a priority.

“The current system of asking survivors to provide evidence of their vulnerability is incredibly insensitive and traumatic, and often impossible to do. We’ve heard horrifying stories of people being asked to return to the address they have fled to gather evidence of the abuse they’ve experienced.

“Putting lives in danger simply cannot carry on. The Domestic Abuse Bill is the opportune moment for the Government to put an end to these harrowing stories by ensuring that everyone fleeing domestic abuse is guaranteed the safety and stability of a permanent home.”

Rebecca Pritchard, Director of Services at Crisis, said: “It’s a horrifying thought that people fleeing domestic abuse aren’t being supported to find a safe home at a time when they need one the most.

“It’s simply not good enough that survivors are being forced to sleep rough or are ending up stuck in temporary accommodation unable to move on with their lives because they’re being refused help to find a safe settled home.

“It doesn’t have to be this way – that’s why we’re calling on the government to ensure survivors are guaranteed a permanent home where they can begin to rebuild their lives away from abuse.”

Jess Phillips MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Domestic Violence and Abuse, said: “We know that for survivors of domestic abuse, having somewhere to flee to quickly can be the difference between life and death.

“But right now, we’re leaving people with little choice but to return to the very place and person they were trying to escape or face the dangers of homelessness, because they have nowhere else to go.

“The Domestic Abuse Bill is the government’s chance to make this right by ensuring that everyone fleeing domestic abuse is automatically entitled to a safe, settled home – because in 21st century Britain no one should ever have to choose between homelessness and abuse.”

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

 1. Methodology:

The number of additional households was calculated using data received from an FOI request to all English Councils enquiring into the number of households whose cause of homelessness was domestic abuse, who did not successfully have their homelessness prevented or ended through either the prevention or relief duties, and were then not found in Priority Need and offered the Main Duty. Data was received from 168 councils (52%). Data from the third quarter since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) was used to allow for the estimate to factor in the 112 days needed to account for those who would have been successfully supported through the prevention and/or relief duties. The returned data was weighted using local authority homelessness footfall to provide an overall estimate across England.

2. The governments quarterly statutory homelessness statistics were released on the 24th May 2019. The figure included here is for the latest available quarter, October – December 2018. Further information can be found:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

About Crisis 

Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. We help people directly out of homelessness, and campaign for the social changes needed to solve it altogether. We know that together we can end homelessness.   

Crisis provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness (APPGEH)

People’s Postcode Lottery has partnered with Crisis since August 2018. The charity and the people it supports have so far benefitted from over £3m raised by players since the first draw in November 2018.

About the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Ending Homelessness (APPGEH) was set up in response to growing numbers of people rough sleeping and upward trends in the number of homeless applications.

It aims to develop the policy solutions which will create lasting change, while providing a platform for homeless people to engage with Parliamentarians and key sector stakeholders to help inform the political dialogue surrounding homelessness.