Blog: CIH vice president calls for Scotland’s housing sector to sign up to ‘Make a Stand’ campaign

CIH vice president Jim Strang

Following the launch of the CIH ‘Make a Stand’ campaign on domestic abuse, CIH vice president Jim Strang looks at how the issue is being tackled in Scotland and calls for the Scottish housing sector to sign up to this important campaign.

Last month, the Chartered Institute of Housing launched its Make a Stand campaign, in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance.

The Make a Stand pledge gives housing organisations the opportunity to sign up to four focused, but easily deliverable, commitments to provide support for people experiencing domestic abuse. Once an organisation signs the pledge, they have until September 2019 to put these commitments into place.

We chose to focus on this issue as over 58,000 people across Scotland experienced domestic abuse last year, and for all homicides recorded in the last ten years, just over half (52%) of the female victims aged between 16 and 70 years were killed by their partner or ex-partner.

We believe that the housing sector can do more to protect these women.

It is clear that we have much to do as a sector to help those suffering from, or at risk of, domestic abuse. We need to ensure we have the right people with the right skills in the right locations, so we are able to offer the decisive and meaningful interventions to help rehouse those affected and offer them a safe and secure home in which to carry on their lives.

Currently, there is not enough recognition of the impact of domestic abuse on women’s health and wellbeing.

In addition, practice has at times failed to adapt to the reality of domestic abuse. Few local authorities have a policy framework which recognises that domestic abuse affects men and women differently. We need to look again at how to assess priority homelessness applications and see if mechanisms can be put in place to ensure that offers of housing are sensitive and appropriately tailored to individual needs.

We know that when women come forward, they need support and advice about their options. Women are often forced to leave their family home and many find that they also have to move multiple times. Each move can add to a feeling of isolation and loneliness, as well as the financial hardship of rebuilding a new life.

Encouragingly, the Scottish Government is planning to consult on legislation to provide protection for women by placing conditions on perpetrators, including removing them from households for a period of time, to prevent further harassment or abuse.

Many housing associations and local authorities are doing excellent work supporting victims of abuse. For example, West Dunbartonshire Council has launched a zero tolerance policy on domestic abuse within social housing and will now remove perpetrators, and not the victim, from the family home.

This is welcome, however, we need to see a greater focus on improving policy and practice at a local level.

We want all housing providers to develop a framework for preventing homelessness; we want each to develop a housing policy that strengthens women’s right to stay in the home if they are a victim of domestic violence; we want women not to be financially disadvantaged as a result of domestic abuse; and we want all housing providers to focus on reducing homelessness amongst women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.

We also need a culture change to ensure that domestic abuse is recognised as unacceptable, that victims will always be protected and perpetrators punished.  The housing sector, along with local and national government, can ensure that every survivor receives the right response, the first time it is needed. Only by making this everyone’s priority will we ensure that every woman and child can live their life free from abuse.

Find out more about the ‘Make a Stand’ campaign and pledge your support on the CIH website.

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