Last year, over 10,000 women fleeing domestic abuse across England were denied safe housing, according to a report from The Times.
The figures revealed that almost “8,000 households referred to a safe accommodation service did not receive support because there was no capacity and a further 3,000 were denied places because the shelter ‘could not meet the needs of the household’”.
Section 160ZA(7) gives local authorities the power to determine who qualifies, or does not qualify, to be allocated social housing, subject to any regulations made by the Secretary of State under section 160ZA(8).
In 2022, the statutory guidance, Improving access to social housing for victims of domestic abuse, showed that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government stated that they “have already put in place the number of measures to assist victims of domestic abuse” and “since 2014, we have invested £205 million in support within safe accommodation services”.
Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence, told The Times:
“The government must produce a clear plan on their response to the amount of victims turned away and clarity on the standards expected of safe accommodation.
Sadly too many of those who are being housed are absolutely not in specialist safe, secure, supportive accommodation, but instead in unregulated sometimes dangerous accommodation. The government should not crow about how much they claim to be doing in this space while the data still looks so woeful.”
Recent figures that show the progression of domestic abuse revealed that victims of domestic abuse will receive direct payments to help them leave abusive relationships in a new trial as part of the Government’s Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan.
The figures for women escaping domestic abuse, however, suggest that many women “could be left homeless or driven back to dangerous partners”.
Hannana Siddiqui, head of policy, campaigns and research at the women’s rights group Southall Black Sisters, said:
“Anyone who’s facing domestic abuse and who is not assisted to enter safe accommodation is at such huge risk. The consequences are that they’re exploited and abused on the streets, or they are driven back in an abusive relationship.
If they’re not provided with proper housing and support for themselves and their children, then what choices have they got left? A lot of them are very low income or no income.”