18 May 2021

Is the housing sector doing enough to tackle domestic abuse?

This year’s International Women’s Day called for everyone to ‘Choose to Challenge’. From challenge comes change and this is something we certainly need. Change in how women are perceived, how they are treated and how they are valued.

This day of celebration promoted men and women working together to accelerate gender parity. But if we are to achieve this in the future, we need to be championing women’s agendas every day of the year. And I firmly believe that the housing sector can play a vital role in making this happen. 

Over the years, we’ve made a big impact in bringing issues such as domestic abuse to the fore.  Sadly, this violence is still rife. During the first national lockdown last year, there was a steep rise in the number of cases reported. People were shut at home, often with their perpetrators, without support.

We pride ourselves on building, managing and maintaining the best possible homes that we can but if that home isn’t a safe place, are we really doing our jobs properly? The housing sector has a strong voice and we to need to make it heard by calling for greater action. We should be starting conversations, telling people not to put up with it, and using more resources to support people in their communities who are experiencing abuse.

The fear of homelessness is a huge barrier. What kind of choice is it for women to stay and be abused or leave and face the harrowing experience of losing their home and community? It’s important for us to help break down these barriers and raise awareness of the support women can receive if they reach out for help.

Whilst we’ve come a long way, there is still so much to be done both in the UK and internationally.  The housing sector has a role to play in advocating for women who are most hidden. Those with no recourse to public funds often feel that they have no rights and that no-one will want to help. That’s why the work of organisations such as Stonewater’s South Asian Women’s Refuge (SAWR) is vital.

I believe the housing sector is capable of bringing about a whole system change. The CIH’s Make a Stand campaign has already significantly raised awareness of the role housing can play in response to domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. Now, with cases still increasing, it’s time to challenge society to put a stop to it.

We’ve campaigned for the inclusion of women with no recourse to public funds in the Domestic Abuse Bill and it would be a real step forward if, this time next year, the Bill, with all its amendments, had gone through Parliament.

As housing providers, it’s important that all our policies and practices are intersectional to help remove the barriers faced by women of colour, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities. We need to recognise that people from the LGBTQ+ movement are victims too and offer dedicated accommodation and support like Stonewater’s Safe Space. The need for inclusivity has never been greater.

As housing providers, we need to be part of the broader conversation about what kind of a world we want to live in. And we can’t do this on our own. A whole societal shift is required, and this can only be achieved if everyone buys in. Until both genders are truly equal in the world, we need to use any opportunity to magnify how women are disproportionality affected to bring about long-term positive change.

To hear more about how the housing sector can ‘Choose to Challenge’ listen to the latest episode of On the Air: https://on-the-air.simplecast.com/episodes/choose-to-challenge-iwd2021

Written by Andrew King

Andrew King is head of supported housing at Stonewater.

About Stonewater

Stonewater is a leading social housing provider, with a mission to deliver good quality, affordable homes to people who need them most. We manage around 33,600 homes in England for over 75,000 customers, including affordable properties for general rent, shared ownership and sale, alongside specialist accommodation such as retirement and supported living schemes for older and vulnerable people, domestic abuse refuges, a dedicated LGBTQ+ Safe Space, and young people’s foyers.

Every home we build is designed to be affordable to own, rent and maintain. We are leading one of the most significant and progressive house-building programme, aiming to build a minimum of 1,500 new homes a year from 2022/23. Our Development Team work closely with partners including Homes England, Local Authorities, developers and construction companies. This collaboration ensures we design and construct excellent homes that enhance neighborhoods and support prosperous communities.

Stonewater is proud to be part of the largest Homes England strategic partnership alongside Guinness Partnership – with £224m funding for 4,500 additional high-quality affordable homes by 2022. The funding will enable Guinness and Stonewater to extend and accelerate their development plans, bringing forward the building of affordable and social housing.

We are also the largest management partner for Legal & General Affordable Homes, supporting the organisation in delivering its ambitious development plan of building 3,000 homes by 2022, by leading on Legal & General’s housing operations across England. 

We recognise that the way we work matters too. We are committed to providing homes that are energy efficient and are working towards Government’s targets for carbon neutrality. Our Environment Strategy helps us minimise the resources we use as an organisation and manage our impact on the environment.

In recognition of our work in this area, we have been awarded a Silver ‘SHIFT’ rating, an independent assessment and accreditation scheme that measures organisations against challenging environmental targets. Stonewater was also the first UK housing association to partner with the community Forest Trust, planting six new trees for every home we build. 

For more information, visit our website at https://www.stonewater.org/media-pack/media-kit/