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Domestic violence: A new government proposal will make it easier for domestic violence survivors to leave their abuser, here’s what survivors think of the bill


Last year, the number of domestic violence crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales increased by 6%, with the demand on domestic abuse helplines rising by 22%. Figures also showed that 72% of people supported by domestic violence helplines were women experiencing abuse. The pandemic, as difficult as it has been for so many of us in countless ways, has had catastrophic consequences for those experiencing domestic violence. 

“COVID doesn’t make an abuser,” Jacky Mulveen, project manager of Women’s Empowerment and Recovery Educators (WE:ARE), an advocacy and support group in Birmingham, England, told TIME. “But COVID exacerbates it. It gives them more tools, more chances to control you. The abuser says, ‘You can’t go out; you’re not going anywhere,’ and the government also is saying, ‘You have to stay in.’”

But the government is finally taking action to help provide better support for domestic abuse victims, with a new proposal from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities  that hopes to see £125 million handed to councils across England to make sure safe accommodation spaces, such as refuges and shelters, can provide victims with vital support services.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 currently places a legal duty on local councils to fund support in safe accommodation for all victims and their families.

However, ministers are currently consulting on plans to scrap the so-called ‘local connection’ test, which can stop survivors from applying for social housing if they do not have a connection to a local area, which could potentially force them to live in the same community as their abuser.

A second consultation will consider whether and how to change current rules that make it difficult for victims to remove their perpetrators from joint tenancies, which can mean victims either feel forced to stay in their home or are at risk of being made homeless by their abuser.

The department announced further funding for councils to help domestic abuse survivors and their children, which will ensure that safe accommodation spaces such as refuges and shelters can provide victims with vital support services including healthcare, social workers and benefits.

“[We welcome] these two consultations, as an opportunity to remove some of the barriers survivors currently face when it comes to housing. It is vital that survivors of domestic abuse can access safe and longer-term housing in an area of their choosing and are supported to rebuild their lives,” Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO says.  

“Refuge is calling for the ‘local connection’ test to be scrapped so that survivors can be supported to rebuild their lives in a safe area away from their perpetrators. Survivors should not be denied access to social housing because they have no local connection to an area when they have often had no choice but to uproot their lives because it is simply not safe for them to remain in an area with the perpetrator. ”

Ruth also explains that support for survivors who wish to stay in their own home is also key, and are keen to work with the government to remove the barriers that currently exist around joint tenancies.  



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