Whilst the Government has made clear that anyone is allowed to leave home to “avoid or escape risk of injury or harm”, there is much else that is needed to make it possible for all the different stages of escaping domestic abuse and getting somewhere safe.
There is a risk that the focus on women and children escaping to a safe place implies that the escape phase is the only critical stage in domestic violence journeys. But at each stage there are crucial concerns both about the options available; and who is in control of the decisions.
A new initiative between housing providers and women’s refuges is trying to free up the next stage after an initial escape to a refuge.
The issue is that some housing providers have a number of homes that are currently empty as the usual nominations and lettings procedures were paused during the early part of the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, refuges are increasingly full, and unable to support women in the refuge to move on to less temporary accommodation.
Move on from refuges is difficult enough at the best of times – women and children often face years of housing insecurity after leaving a refuge – but now the problems are even more acute.
And if women and children are staying longer than they need in refuges that both frustrates and stalls their journey, and means one fewer refuge space for someone else in acute need. The average number of refuge vacancies in England during the first 7 weeks of lockdown was 97, compared with an average of 183 for the same period in 2019.
The initiative from the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) provides clear guidance to housing providers and refuges about how to make at least this part of the system work a little bit better at this time of acute and ongoing need.
It’s a window of opportunity – to free up space in different stages of the system for women and children who need support in moving on from abuse.
 Bowstead, Janet C. 2017. “Segmented Journeys, Fragmented Lives: Women’s Forced Migration to Escape Domestic Violence.” Journal of Gender-Based Violence 1 (1): 43–58. doi:10.1332/239868017X14912933953340.