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Domestic Abuse Bill introduced to Parliament

“Today, the Domestic Abuse Bill received its First Reading in the House of Commons. We are extremely disappointed that the final Bill doesn’t include our call for people who are homeless as a result of fleeing domestic abuse to be given priority need for settled housing. However, we look forward to engaging in the Bill process to ensure this amendment is adopted by the Government.

“A shocking 5,380 households were made homeless in England directly because of domestic abuse between October and December 2018. Our ‘A Safe Home’ report sets out extensive evidence highlighting the importance of changing the law so that all survivors of domestic abuse have access to a safe, permanent home where they can rebuild their lives. But currently, people fleeing domestic abuse in England are required to prove that they are significantly more vulnerable than the average person facing homelessness would be before they can access a safe home. We’ve heard harrowing stories of survivors being asked to recount their experiences of abuse in crowded waiting rooms or return home to a dangerous situation to retrieve evidence of the abuse they’ve experienced.

“Yet, our recent research shows that currently nearly 2,000 domestic abuse survivors a year are being put at risk of homelessness because they are not considered to be in priority need for housing by their local council. Faced with the prospect of nowhere to turn, many survivors have no option but to return to their abusers or face the dangers of homelessness. Given that two women a week are killed in England by a partner or ex-partner and that we know the point of separation is when risk of homicide is the greatest, it is appalling that this is a choice some survivors are facing.

“The Government is currently consulting on proposals that would place a new legal duty on local authorities to commission temporary accommodation-based services for survivors of domestic abuse. While this is welcome, the case remains that without a change to homelessness legislation, there is still no legal duty to provide everyone who is homeless because of domestic abuse with a safe and permanent home. This means many people face the prospect of being stuck in temporary accommodation for months or even years on end with their lives on hold. There is also no guarantee that survivors without priority need will be able to access temporary accommodation through this new duty.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. The Domestic Abuse Bill presents the opportune moment to ensure that everyone fleeing domestic abuse has access to a safe home when they need it most. Putting lives in danger simply can’t carry on and we will grasp the opportunity of this Bill to continue to pressure the Government into making this much needed change.” - Neil Coyle MP, Chair of the APPG for Ending Homelessness