New guidance has been launched for all social landlords and local authority housing providers to help them offer a more consistent and safe approach to the issue of domestic violence.
Scottish Women’s Aid has partnered with the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, and Shelter Scotland to produce a good-practice guide on domestic abuse for social landlords to help them prevent women and children’s homelessness and provide a service that is sensitive to their needs.
Domestic abuse is the main cause of women and child homelessness in Scotland with 78% of homelessness applications received from women in 2017/18 giving the reason as ‘a dispute within the household (violent or abusive)’.
Current housing policy and practice responses are based on expecting women and children experiencing domestic abuse leave their homes – not the abusers.
Many women looking for support are made homeless by the services meant to help them, often forced to leave the family home then move multiple times.
The guidance issued by the partnership includes good-practice examples, checklists for best practice in responding to domestic abuse, and templates for domestic abuse policies.
The guide also features first-hand accounts from women made homeless as a result of domestic abuse and the challenges they faced when seeking help from their local council.
One said: “Having to repeat my circumstances over and over again was humiliating and distressing to me.
“I was also worried about a negative reaction of not being believed every time I had to explain to a new person.”
Jo Ozga, policy officer at Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic abuse is a violation of human rights, and those rights are further denied if public services do not respond to abuse and if policies do not prevent it.
“Often, women are told that their only housing option when they are separating from an abusive partner is to make a homeless application.
“Being forced to become homeless adds to the trauma of domestic abuse and comes at a huge emotional and financial cost.”
Ozga continued: “We know there is more to do, and we will continue to campaign for a gendered approach to homelessness in Scotland.
“However, we believe this good practice guide will be an invaluable tool in improving the responses to women, children, and young people experiencing the trauma of coercive control, and we will work with our partners to ensure consistency in those responses.”
The guidance will be available to every social landlord and every local authority in Scotland.