Housing sector ‘has vital role to play’ in tackling domestic abuse

Housing providers have a vital role to play in helping victims of domestic abuse and holding perpetrators to account, new research by national domestic abuse charity SafeLives and housing association Gentoo has found.

Every year, nearly 2 million people in the UK experience domestic abuse. Seven women a month are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone.

The report by SafeLives and Gentoo demonstrates the vital role housing providers can play in tackling domestic abuse. Investment and training means housing providers can identify domestic abuse earlier, and work with police to hold perpetrators to account, it said.

According to the report, this not only reduces the impact and suffering on the victims and their families but it also makes financial sense for the housing provider.

By including perpetration of abuse as a breach of tenancy, housing providers can take a proactive role in holding perpetrators to account for their actions: holding them responsible for the damage they cause to the victims and their property, and potentially even evicting them from the home.

Housing 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 can remain a safe and realistic option for more victims.

At a time when the UK government are leading a public consultation to transform the response to domestic abuse, Gentoo said it is vital that the role housing can play in supporting families much earlier is examined.

Michelle Meldrum, executive director, Gentoo Operations, said: “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 cofounders. 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 our front-line teams to be able to spot the signs of abuse and have number of victim support officers who offer specialist support – there is no doubt that this saves lives.

“By working closely with SafeLives to produce this important piece of research we have been able to develop a strong business case, helping us to get this important message out to the sector. This piece of research really has helped us to demonstrate why it is so important for all housing providers to tackle domestic abuse in all forms. It really is the right thing to do.”

SafeLives chief executive, Suzanne Jacob, said: “All too often we hear people asking ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ Which in practice 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 must flip the narrative, focusing on the behaviour of the perpetrator and challenging them to change. A good housing response can help this happen.

“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.”

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