Launched in 2014 the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance’s (DAHA) mission is to improve the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse in three main ways:
1-Through the introduction and adoption of an established set of standards for housing providers and an accreditation process to measure their response to domestic abuse
2-Lobbying the Government and Housing Sector
3–Disseminating good practice and research
Why are we needed?
The latest Femicide Census (2018) shows that 68% of domestic abuse victims were killed in their own home by a current or ex-partner. Housing providers therefore have a significant role to play in the detection of domestic abuse and prevention of domestic homicides. More than 1.9 million adults experienced domestic abuse last year according to and as the Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Strategy for England And Wales points out each one abused by a perpetrator.
Social Housing Regulation
Social Housing (in England) is regulated by the Regulator for Social Housing and housing providers must ensure they meet certain standards including a requirement to publish an anti-social behaviour policy and demonstrate how they work in partnership to prevent ASB. DAHA argues that Regulatory Standards for Housing Providers should include a distinct requirement to recognise and respond to domestic abuse.
Research by Henderson (2019) found that almost 65% of housing providers state their response to domestic abuse is situated within an anti-social behaviour (ASB) framework. Some indicated that there was not a separate policy for domestic abuse. Seeing domestic abuse is a form of ASB is problematic as it can position survivors as part of the problem and doesn’t distinguish between their support and safety needs, and the positive engagement and enforcement actions to be taken against the perpetrator.
Women Remaining in their Home
Kelly et al. (2014) argued that for women and children their home and rootedness in local communities was critical to their safety and freedom. In addition to the violence they have experienced, the loss of home is a serious part of the trauma that women in a violent relationship suffer. The loss of a home can be further compounded by the uncertainty of re-housing if they decide to leave.
For some women accessing refuge accommodation is not a viable option and given the scarcity and uncertainty of securing accommodation in an area they want to be in, it is perhaps understandable why this is not always the most suitable choice. Families who are forced to flee domestic violence often must leave the home without their personal possessions, which can exacerbate the stress and difficulty of trying to resettle (Pleace, 2008).
‘I had to leave all my possessions and friends I feel as if I have lost everything and am struggling with the isolation of living in a strange area, away from all my supports.’ (Scottish Women’s Aid, 2017, p.48).
Housing Responding to Domestic Abuse Perpetrators
Many housing providers indicate that they do not tolerate domestic abuse and stipulate it as a breach of tenancy agreement. However, there is often a gap between policy and action which is not always instigated in to the same extent as taking action on the grounds of anti-social behaviour and other tenancy breaches.
Whilst its worth acknowledging in some cases a decision is taken not pursue action in accordance with the victim’s wishes, the response of housing providers and other agencies is often to move the woman and children into refuge accommodation or a new tenancy often leaving the perpetrator in the family home.
Scottish Women’s Aid (2017) found, in their research into Fife Housing Partnership, that two-thirds of service providers did not know if housing services could take action against a perpetrator of domestic abuse and 28 out of the 80 staff surveyed stated that they did not consider it their job role to take action against a perpetrator of domestic abuse.
Nearly half (47%) of service providers said they were not confident about giving information about how to exclude an abusive partner, or what action could be taken against a perpetrator. Given that one in four perpetrators are repeat offenders with some having as many as six different victims (SafeLives 2014) it is essential that housing organisations are skilled in responding.
Clarke and Wydall (2015) highlight the importance of housing for perpetrators suggest that re-housing perpetrators can have positive outcomes for both perpetrators and victims in their study of the Making Safe Project in the North of the country which provided support and alternative housing for perpetrators of domestic abuse.
They found that in addition to the respite from the daily fear and anxiety caused by the controlling presence of the perpetrator by re-housing women found the period of perpetrators living in alternative housing as providing the men with an opportunity to illustrate they could address their problems and change their behaviour.
This is turn gave women the feeling of being in a stronger bargaining position than previously. The same research also illustrated the positive impact of perpetrators being housed as for some men who wanted to be part of a family, and to return to family home, they had to make the necessary changes within themselves and that space was instrumental.
DAHA stipulates that housing providers should be regulated as part of the existing regulatory requirements to recognise and respond to domestic abuse. Part of this would include taking action against perpetrators of domestic abuse and supporting those perpetrators who wish to address their abusive behaviour.
DAHA were signatories to a recent letter sent to the Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick calling on the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government to help fund risk managed accommodation solutions for perpetrators in cases where victims want to stay in their own home and can be supported to be safe there.