Women who have to leave home because of domestic violence face many losses. Whether they move locally, or across the country, they often lose possessions – both practical things like furniture, cooker, washing machine, and personal things like photographs, favourite clothes, children’s drawings and toys.
They also lose their rights to services. Sometimes because of different service provision around the country, other times because they have to start again at the bottom of waiting lists, or they have missed a crucial enrolment date in the new area. Sometimes because they cannot find their way around the bureaucracy.
They may lose their housing rights. If they have a secure housing tenancy that they have to leave, there is a real risk that they will end up with far less housing security in the new area. They will have had to choose personal security over housing security.
They shouldn’t have to choose.
A Government Bill currently going through Parliament may start to address this problem. The Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill had its latest committee debate on the 27th of March. The Minister stated:
“Under the Bill, any local authority in England that has somebody presenting with domestic abuse issues must take on a secure tenancy if that person had a secure tenancy before. It cannot be plainer than that.”
Heather Wheeler (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government)
In the debate, other MPs highlighted the difficulties and implications of relocating:
“Still too often, we require the victim to put the pieces of her escape route together.”
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
“People do not necessarily leave a secure tenancy; sometimes they go to stay with a friend, sometimes they go to a refuge and sometimes they go to stay with their parents. In most housing law, that diminishes their rights.”
Sir Robert Syms (Poole) (Con)
“We are talking mostly about women who have spent months, years, sometimes decades making mental lists over and again about their route out. Our main responsibility today is to remove all the barriers on that route out.”
Rosie Duffield (Canterbury) (Lab)
To follow the progress of this Bill, see https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/securetenanciesvictimsofdomesticabuse.html