In relation to safe housing there are really four options about what to do.
Local authority accommodation
Housing departments of district councils have under the Housing Act a statutory responsibility to put a roof over the head of someone who is fleeing domestic abuse — or indeed violence in general. In relation to domestic abuse, there is no expectation that the victim has to have any supporting evidence when claiming homelessness due to domestic abuse.
However, in reality it is much easier for the homeless section to accept them as unintentionally homeless if they do have some evidence. This can come in the form of letters from the local domestic abuse units (police), GP/Health Visitor, a domestic abuse support agency, or whoever is willing to support the application. If it is an emergency, it may be down to the professional or a Domestic Abuse Champion to liase with Housing at the district councils on behalf of the victim.
If there is any outreach it will be advisable to link up with the outreach worker that covers that area or continue to support them yourself. Most victims go back when unsupported. Before the victim leaves, write down any other issues which are worrying the victim and devise some easy options for them to follow. For example:
- Money — contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for more information on benefits and entitlements.
- Children — may need to inform Children, Young People and Families Services to advise them of what’s happening – always better to encourage people to have positive dialogue — stress the fact that they may need some support.
- Safety — it is advisable to keep the Police Domestic Abuse Unit informed as the offender may for example make a missing person complaint. It may be advisable to discuss the issues with a solicitor, even if at this stage the victim doesn’t want to go for an injunction. Remember Information is power. Give the names of local solicitors and telephone numbers, or the Rights of Women helpline number, where civil matters can also be discussed (e.g. property, financial and child arrangements).
- Belongings — if the victim still has items in the property that need to be collected then the police could be called to attend with the victim to prevent a breach of the peace. This is done by calling the police’s main number and asking for the control room. Explain the situation and a mutual arrangement will be made. Please be aware that some officers will be able to pick the victim up while others, due to operational commitments, may need to meet the victim close to the property.
- Assessment of domestic abuse cases under homelessness legislation
- Cherwell Approved Allocation Scheme (2009)
- Housing flowchart
A refuge is a safe house where women and children who are experiencing domestic violence can stay free from abuse. There are also some refuges across the country that are for men who are fleeing abuse. Refuge addresses (and sometimes telephone numbers) are confidential. There are over 500 refuge and support services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most refuges are unlikely to accept women from their immediate local area as this is usually where they are most at risk, and therefore they are likely to have to go to another area in the county or to another county. Any refuge accepting a victim would have to be a 'safe' distance away from any areas where their abuser has connections.
Moving someone into a refuge in some ways is easier than arranging local authority accommodation; the support/money problems are sorted by the Refuge Project Workers. When arranging for someone to go to a refuge there are a number of issues. See the main information page on Refuge services for a fuller discussion of the issues and how to apply for a place in a refuge.
Friends or family
A lot of people stay with their friends and they can be a fantastic form of support. If the victim is still frightened of their partner visiting their friends address they can get advice from a solicitor about keeping him away by getting an injunction.
It's still good to get some proper advice from a domestic violence specialist and there may also be a domestic violence outreach worker covering the area. If there is an outreach worker in the area the victim can get help from Victim Support. It is best to prearrange this as an option before the victim decides to flee.
This type of order will establish who has a right to stay in the home. An occupation order can order an abuser to move out of the home or to keep a certain distance from the home. In order to apply for this type of order, the victim will need to know if they or the abuser (or both of them) are legally entitled to occupy the property.
See the main information page on injunctions for more information on how to obtain an occupation order.