The Government’s consultation about the accommodation needs of domestic abuse survivors provides a welcome focus on women’s and children’s needs in terms of support and refuge. But in its proposal to place a statutory duty on only local (rather than national) government, it appears confused about the scale of the issue of relocation due to domestic abuse.
In the main part of the consultation document there is some acknowledgement of the needs of those who move across borders to access support:
“We recognise that in some cases, an appropriate response to supporting a victim and their children will be to help them move to another local area to access services and rebuild their lives.” [p22]
And the suggested Statutory Duty on local authorities would require them to:
“Assess the need and demand for accommodation-based support for all victims and their children, including those who require cross-border support.” [p17]
But this reminder has disappeared by the overview summary two pages later, which only says:
“Assess the need and demand for accommodation-based support for all victims and their children” [p19]
This makes the needs and rights of tens of thousands of women and children who cross local authority boundaries appear a bit of an afterthought.
And yet, in the Annex of “Priorities for Domestic Abuse Services” there is repeated recognition that:
“many victims of domestic abuse need to flee from their local area to access services and stay safe.” [p42]
And that local authorities are expected to commission services that:
“Meet the needs of victims from within and outside the local area, recognising that many victims move from their local area to be safe.” [p43]
So – is it a marginal issue affecting some individuals; or does it affect many?
Of course, it affects many – tens of thousands – and this consultation (which ends on 2nd August 2019) is an important opportunity to wake up to that fact; and ensure that women and children who relocate across boundaries due to domestic abuse do not continue to disappear through the gaps in policy, service provision and rights.