A single housing association says nearly a fifth of its repair costs now relate to domestic violence – averaging around £1,200 per home.
Faced with such figures, Gentoo urges providers to play a “vital role” in helping survivors of abusive relationships and holding perpetrators to account.
Gentoo worked with national domestic violence charity SafeLives to demonstrate how initiatives such as making abuse a breach of tenancy can prove pro-active.
To Gentoo, the resulting research shows how such an approach can pay off in making perpetrators account for their actions: holding them responsible for the damage they cause to the victims and their property, and potentially even evicting them.
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 research suggests providers can also play a role in raising awareness and understanding of the dynamics of abuse amongst staff and customers, allowing early identification of properties where abuse is present so safety measures can be put in place and staying at home remains a safe and realistic option.
Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director, Gentoo Operations said: “When the Government is leading a public consultation to transform the response to domestic abuse, it is vital we look at the role housing can play in supporting families much earlier.
“At Gentoo we are committed to influencing and challenging the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse.
“We do this through sharing best practice and through the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, of which Gentoo are co-founders.
DAHA’s mission is to improve the sector’s response to domestic abuse.
Housing providers are in a unique position to be able to identify abuse and support victims”.
Gentoo has trained front-line teams to spot the signs of abuse and have number of victim support officers who offer specialist support.
The research work with SafeLives helped develop a strong business case for pitching to the wider sector.
SafeLives Chief Executive, Suzanne Jacob said the work strengthened a need to “flip the narrative” over domestic violence – focusing on the behaviour of the perpetrator and challenging them to change.
“A good housing response can make this happen.
“All too often we hear people asking “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
“In practice (this) means why she doesn’t just leave her home – uprooting her and her children, risking disruption to education and relationships with friends and family, a sense of normality.
“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,” Jacobs said.