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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Why the housing sector has a vital role to play in tackling domestic abuse

06/09/2018


Housing providers are in a unique position to work with other organisations to identify abuse and support victims, says SafeLives head of consultancy Sonal Shenai.

Every year nearly two million people in the UK experience domestic abuse. Seven women a month are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Yet 85 per cent of victims have to seek help five times on average before they get effective support.

Victims and their families deserve the right support at the right time. It’s time we all take action to end the epidemic.

Domestic abuse is often described as ‘hidden’ due it to mainly being perpetrated at home. But this leaves housing providers in a unique position to work with other agencies, including the police, to identify abuse and disrupt perpetrator behaviour as quickly as possible.

New research from SafeLives and Gentoo finds that improving the housing response to domestic abuse not only supports more victims, survivors and children, but also makes financial sense.

The research found that nearly a fifth of all repair costs experienced by Gentoo are related to domestic abuse, with the average cost of repairs at households with domestic abuse coming to £1,200 (compared to £860 as the average cost for all properties).

Too often victims are held responsible for this damage, possibly even being evicted from their home. This only exacerbates the problem: uprooting victims and their families from the place they call home, leaving them more vulnerable and sometimes even homeless. And all of this comes at a cost to the housing provider too – up to £5,700 to evict and re-let each property.

We owe it to victims to see the harm they are experiencing and support them so they can stay safely at home.

“I thought I was going to lose my home, I was isolated…the only security I could offer the kids was to stay in the same home and Gentoo supported with that.”

Anonymous

By investing in training, housing providers can raise awareness and understanding of the dynamics of abuse so properties where domestic abuse is present can be identified early and safety measures put in place.

All too often we hear people asking: “Why doesn’t she leave?” Which in practice means, why doesn’t she just leave her home – uprooting her and her children, risking disruption to education and relationships with friends and family, a sense of normality.

We must flip the narrative. There is only ever one person responsible for domestic abuse – the perpetrator. We must shift the focus on to them, holding them to account for their behaviour and challenging them to change. A good housing response can do this.

Working with the police, perpetration can be included as a breach of tenancy and housing providers can take a proactive role in holding perpetrators to account for their actions: holding them responsible for the damage they cause to their victims and their property, and potentially even evicting them from the home.

At a time when the government is leading a public consultation to transform the response to domestic abuse, it’s vital we look at the role housing can play in supporting families.

If we don’t tackle the root cause of the problem, we leave the door open for repeat behaviour, leading to further harm for victims and children, as well as further costs to the housing provider.

Everyone deserves somewhere safe to call home. We must all work together to ensure this is possible.

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