We welcome funding for accommodation-based support for survivors, but there is more to be done
Today the government has announced new funding for local councils to provide accommodation-based support for survivors of domestic abuse, alongside enforcement of a legal obligation for this provision.
With a range of our housing projects geared towards helping this specific group of people, we welcome the announcement, but recognise there’s more to do.
In our view, there are four further things the government could do to improve this offering and make sure it is really effective in helping people to escape domestic abuse
1. Ensure the funding is ring-fenced
Extra funding is of course brilliant news, but it probably won’t serve its purpose unless the government require it to be ring-fenced. Decades of local government funding cuts have left authorities in a desperate position when it comes to finances and extra-funding could be used to plug other holes in their services if it isn’t protected.
2. Provide specialist support AND accommodation
‘Accommodation-based support’ could be interpreted to mean that the accommodation by itself will be enough. However, in our experience of developing projects for domestic abuse survivors, a stable home is a great starting point, but unless an individual has dedicated wraparound support as well it can be very difficult for them to move on from trauma. To achieve this, funding should be channelled by local government to support smaller specialist providers of such support and avoid contracts being awarded only to large-scale housing providers who may have little experience of working with survivors.
3. Recognise that one size does not fit all
Ministers should recognise that a range of different services are needed. What is essential is that no one is prevented from leaving an abusive relationship purely because the options available to them just aren’t quite right. Reasons for this can be varied, maybe they have an older male child with them or the location of the available accommodation is too far from work, schools or too close to the perpetrator. Our Rhea project run by Solace Women’s Aid with Southwark Council takes this into account and provides accommodation to women who would otherwise have nowhere to turn.
4. BUILD MORE HOMES!
As with most accommodation-related issues, a general increase in housing provision would alleviate the pressure on local authorities to provide these services. Increased demand created by the Homelessness Reduction Act has left councils between a rock and a hard place when it comes to meeting their legal obligations to provide homes. If they are to support people at crisis point there has to be consistent availability of properties to make sure no one is turned away.