Poverty and inequality conference to discuss domestic abuse and housing
SFHA’s Housing Now, Housing's Future: Poverty and Inequality Conference, taking place on 18 February, will see Scottish Women’s Aid and CIH Scotland discussing improving housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
By Jo Ozga, Policy Worker, Scottish Women’s Aid.
Domestic abuse is the number one cause of women and their children’s homelessness in Scotland. Scottish Government statistics show that, "for female main applicants, the most common reason for making a homelessness application is a violent or abusive dispute within the household – 22% compared to 5% of applications from male main applicants".
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted a ‘shadow pandemic’ of domestic abuse. As lockdown measures have enabled perpetrators to enforce control, isolate women and children from support and underlined that, even in normal circumstances, many women and children do not feel safe or secure at home.
However, current housing policy and practice responses are based on the expectation that victim-survivors, rather than perpetrators of domestic abuse, will leave their homes. Many women looking for support are made homeless by the very services that are meant to help them, forced to leave the family home, compounding the trauma of the abuse and coming at an enormous emotional and financial cost.
Social landlords told us that they want to do the right thing, but that they need support to make sure that they are offering a consistently good response to those affected by domestic abuse. As result, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) partnered with the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, SFHA and Shelter Scotland to produce a good practice guide on domestic abuse for social landlords to help them prevent women and children’s homelessness and provide a service that is sensitive to their needs.
While there are examples of good practice in how social landlords are developing their response to domestic abuse, the housing sector has been slow to improve its approach. The extent to which social landlords have developed and implemented a domestic abuse policy, based on the good practice guidance is very limited.
Following publication of the guidance, the Scottish Government invited CIH and SWA to co-chair a working group to consider how Scotland could improve housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. The report published in December 2020, recommends a combination of systemic change, legislation and actions to prevent homelessness for victim-survivors of domestic abuse.
The Scottish Government has committed to developing an implementation plan to respond to the recommendations and working together with social housing providers to implement the report’s findings.
The Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill, currently going through Parliament marks a critical shift in in preventing women’s homelessness by removing and barring the perpetrator and gives social landlords greater control over ending or transferring tenancies to keep women and children safe.
This legislative change to protect women’s rights, together with the implementation of the report recommendations will make a fundamental difference to improving not only the housing outcomes for women and children in Scotland but also their health and wellbeing.
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this blog, please contact Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline available 24/7 on 0800 027 1234.
CIH Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid will discuss their report on improving housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse at SFHA's Poverty and Inequality Conference on 18 February. This session will provide an overview of the report’s findings and look at how SFHA will work with partners to support members to implement the recommendations. It will also discuss the Domestic Abuse Scotland Bill.
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