Domestic abuse survivors will find it easier to move away from perpetrators under proposals announced by ministers.
The plans, which are being put out to consultation, would see the so-called local connection test scrapped. The test can stop victims from applying for social housing if they do not have a connection to a local area, potentially forcing an abuse survivor to live in the same community as their abuser.
A second consultation will consider whether and how to change current rules that make it difficult for victims to remove their perpetrators from joint tenancies, which can mean victims either feel forced to stay in their home or are at risk of being made homeless by their abuser.
Commenting on the consultation, Nicole Jacobs, the domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, said: “It is vital that victims and survivors can access safe housing regardless of their tenure type. That means staying safely in their own home if they want to, as well as being able to access housing in a new area if they are no longer safe where they live.”
The consultation was carried out as part of a wider announcement from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which included further funding for councils to help domestic abuse survivors and their children.
The funding will be used to ensure that safe accommodation spaces such as refuges and shelters can provide victims with vital support services including healthcare, social workers and benefits, according to the department. Interpreters, immigration advice, drug or alcohol support and other specialist services will also be funded and made available.
The funding will be issued as a non-ringfenced grant to councils, which will then be responsible for making decisions on how the funding is spent to benefit those in need.
The safeguarding minister, Rachel Maclean, said: “Home is not the safe place it should be for domestic abuse victims and their families. The extra support provided today will provide a vital lifeline for victims as they try to rebuild their lives positively while feeling supported and protected.”
The government’s Domestic Abuse Act 2021 placed a legal duty on councils to fund support in safe accommodation for all victims and their families. The money announced on Tuesday will help pay for these services.
Isabelle Younane, the head of policy, campaigns and public affairs at Women’s Aid, said: “Being a victim of abuse often means having every aspect of life being controlled. It is crucial that survivors are given the support they need to take back control after leaving – including deciding where they want to live. Survivors should never be made to stay in the same area as their abuser, or be forced out if they want to remain in their own home. We welcome the upcoming consultations alongside the funding, so that survivors can have the options they deserve when rebuilding their lives.”
- In the UK, call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines may be found via www.befrienders.org