13 Dec 2022

We must improve housing outcomes for victims of domestic abuse

Over the course of 2022 political and public attention has rightly been focused on the cost of living and what can be done to make day to day living more affordable for everyone.

However, in focusing so much on the general population we are at risk of missing those at the greatest risk, including victims of domestic abuse.

We all know that rising prices impact unequally in society, with the most vulnerable facing higher levels of inflation but what is less appreciated is that this poverty traps victims in abusive homes and abusive relationships. They literally can’t afford to leave.

However, we know what would help.

Back in 2020 CIH Scotland, alongside Scottish Women’s Aid, published a report on how we can improve housing outcomes for victims of domestic abuse. Among the recommendations, all of which have been accepted by the Scottish Government, was new national funding to help women leave their abusive partner. Now some local funding schemes do exist across the country, run by local authorities but a  national scheme would help cover costs of moving to a new home, new clothes, transport and all the other essential costs that victims absorb when finding a new home no matter where they lived. Giving every victim a degree of economic security and safety.

Alongside this we want to see local authorities and housing associations take a larger role in safeguarding the housing rights of victims of domestic abuse and to see a requirement that all councils and housing associations have a domestic abuse policy.

There are examples of good work going on across Scotland and the recent commitment from the four housing associations in the Scottish Borders to developing a shared policy is an example of progress made.

Encouragingly with the Scottish Government budget due to be introduced this month; a new housing bill earmarked for next year; and the likely enactment of legislation which will give social landlords the grounds to remove a perpetrator from a joint social tenancy, there exists an opportunity to secure policy changes that will improve the housing outcomes of victims of domestic abuse.

But addressing systemic discrimination in our housing system will take more than these policies, as welcome as they would be. We need rethink our whole culture of homelessness services and underpin it through a human rights framework.

We need to be bolder and put victim-survivors at the heart of our approach. Our full set of recommendations from 2020, if adopted, will transform housing and homelessness services. They will ensure government and social landlords are better at measuring the scale of homelessness caused by domestic abuse, support social landlords to develop their own domestic abuse policy and improve the supply and quality of accommodation available for victims-giving them a genuine choice about where they want to live. 

It can start this month with the Scottish Government recognising how the cost of living crisis is affecting victims of domestic abuse and creating a national fund to help them leave their abusers.

*This article also appeared in the Herald Scotland on 7 December 2022.

Written by Callum Chomczuk

Callum is the national director of CIH Scotland.