29 Nov 2023

A whole system approach to ending the cycle of abuse

The UN report measuring the shadow pandemic outlined that 45 per cent of women state that they or a woman they know has experienced violence, with 65 per cent of women having experienced violence in their lifetime. Not all violence will occur within an intimate or familial relationship, but it does paint a stark picture of the level of violence experienced by women.

In a housing context, research shows that domestic abuse is a leading cause of homelessness for women with around 40 per cent of homeless women becoming homeless due to leaving an abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse is often the cause of same day homelessness, created by a last-minute decision to leave a home to secure a place of safety. In many cases, it is the survivor who leaves the home.

In Wales, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 sought to make it easier to exclude the perpetrator of abuse from the family home. Contract holders can be added or removed from occupation contracts without the need to end the whole contract. This can help those experiencing domestic abuse by targeting the perpetrator for eviction. Unfortunately, this option is not available for those women who are joint owners of their property.

Welsh Government is seeking to strengthen the help available to survivors of domestic abuse and increase their housing options by proposing changes that will see a survivor helped to remain in their home, if they wish to do so. This feeds into their overarching aim of preventing homelessness in Wales. Encouragingly, there are also proposals to make survivors of abuse exempt for the local connection test to make moving to another area easier for the survivor to access a home in a place of safety, to make moving to another area easier for the survivor to access a home in a place of safety.

The expert review panel outlined further actions to help ensure survivors can access safe and secure accommodation. This examined how we manage the housing needs of the perpetrators, based on the experience of practitioners and other stakeholders. They highlighted that when a perpetrator is excluded from the home it is often into homelessness with significant sanctions on them being able to access alternative accommodation. This can result in them looking to seek entry back into the family home, with some survivor also experiencing pressure from other family members to take the perpetrator back because they are homeless. homeless.

Another pressure point is when a perpetrator is released from prison. If they are deemed to be a considerable risk to the person they have subjected to abuse, there are mechanisms in place to refer them to another local housing authority area. Any other perpetrator on release can return to their home local authority area but often this is with sanctions on securing accommodation increasing the pressure on survivors to take the perpetrator back into the family home.

Ultimately, there is a need to put in place steps to break the cycle of abuse. In Wales, several local authorities have joined partnership programmes that seek to end the cycle of abuse and increase the safety of survivors by working with the perpetrators of abuse. One of these is based in the South Wales Police force and partners with the seven local authorities in their area. The DRIVE programme challenges the behaviour of high risk, high harm perpetrators of abuse. The programme has seen significant reductions in the levels of harm:

  • 82 per cent reduction in physical abuse
  • 88 per cent reduction in sexual abuse
  • 75 per cent reduction in harassment and stalking
  • 82 per cent reduction in risk to victims.

These outcomes form a significant part of the work needed to tackle abuse against women. It is vital that survivors can have a home where they feel safe and secure to move forward with their lives, close to their existing support networks.

We must have a longer-term wider view of the full cycle of abuse. We have seen the positive impacts of working with perpetrators in South Wales.

It is essential we continue to tackle domestic abuse in our communities as part of a whole system approach to ensure homelessness in Wales is rare, and when it does occur it is brief, and steps are taken to ensure it is not repeated.

Written by Cerys Clark

Cerys is the policy and public affairs manager for CIH Cymru.