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A good housing response against domestic abuse

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SafeLives, Gentoo Group, report, domestic abuse, good housing response,Include perpetration of abuse as a breach of tenancy.

Seven women a month are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales and, every year, nearly 2 million people in the UK experience domestic abuse.

SafeLives, a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, and the housing association Gentoo have launched a report that demonstrates the vital role housing providers could play in tackling domestic abuse.

Findings indicated that housing providers have a significant financial incentive to identify and support customers affected by domestic abuse at the earliest opportunity.

Investment and training would mean housing providers could identify domestic abuse earlier, and work with police to hold perpetrators to account.

This would reduce the impact on the victims and their families, and their suffering, and it also makes financial sense for the housing provider.

By including perpetration of abuse as a breach of tenancy, housing providers could take a proactive role in holding perpetrators to account for their actions: holding them responsible for the damage they cause to the victims and their property, and potentially even evicting them from the home.

Housing providers could also play a role in raising awareness and understanding of the dynamics of abuse among both staff and customers, allowing early identification of properties where abuse is present, so that safety measures could be put in place and staying in their home could remain a safe and realistic option for more victims.

As well as improving the safety of victims and children, an improved housing response to domestic abuse would have positive financial implications.

Currently, 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.

The financial impact on housing providers can include criminal damage to housing stock; delays to rent payments via disruption to household finances; mediation services between neighbours; eviction and costs of re-letting; and tackling domestic abuse that is miscategorised as anti-social behaviour.

A few housing providers including Gentoo have a developed offer of support, including onsite specialist services, which enables the following outcomes to be achieved for their tenants:

Early identification of victims of abuse by trained staff;

Improved ability of victims of abuse to access effective support quickly near their homes;

Reduced length of time that victims suffer from domestic abuse;

Strengthened ability of victims to stay in their homes safely; and

A reduction in the disruption of children’s schooling or the need to move away from family and friends and thereby preventing future homelessness.

SafeLives’ chief executive, Suzanne Jacob, said: “All too often we hear people asking “Why doesn’t she just 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, focusing on the behaviour of the perpetrator and challenging them to change. A good housing response can help this happen.

“We often hear domestic abuse described as ‘hidden’ due to it largely being perpetrated at home. But housing providers are in a unique position to work with other agencies, including the police, to identify abuse and disrupt perpetrator behaviour as quickly as possible.

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

“There is only one person responsible for abuse – the perpetrator. 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.”

To read the full report, click here.

The UK government is currently holding a public consultation aiming to determine how to transform the response to domestic abuse; it is vital to look at the role housing can play in supporting families much earlier.

To comment on the government’s public consultation on the response to domestic abuse, click here.

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