24 Apr 2023

Social landlords failing domestic abuse survivors

A new report, Policies not promises, published on 25 April by Scottish Women’s Aid (SAW) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland has found that the majority of social landlords in Scotland have not put in place adequate policies to support survivors of domestic abuse facing homelessness.

In 2018/19, 73 Scottish social landlords signed up to the CIH Scotland Make A Stand domestic abuse campaign and promised to act and put in place their own domestic abuse policies to support their tenants. However, four years later social landlords are still overwhelmingly failing to support those experiencing domestic abuse, prevent victim-survivor homelessness or hold perpetrators to account.

CIH Scotland and SWA have undertaken a review of domestic abuse policies created by social landlords across Scotland. The policies, with a few exceptions, were inadequate, with only nine comprehensively meeting the standards set by good practice guidance published by CIOH Scotland and SWA in 2019.

Many social landlords placed considerable emphasis on victims reporting their experiences – an attitude which puts women and children at risk as the time of reporting or immediately after reporting is incredibly dangerous. Policies also failed to use the Scottish Government definition of domestic abuse and did not recognise domestic abuse as gender-based violence. Furthermore, landlords are not holding perpetrators of domestic abuse to account, with only six mentioning actions that should be taken against tenants who are perpetrators.

While the Scottish Government has committed to include a statutory requirement for all social landlords to have a domestic abuse policy in the next Housing Bill, CIH Scotland and SWA are also calling for:

  • The 2019 good practice guidance for social landlords to be placed on a statutory footing to ensure that social landlords prioritise domestic abuse within an equality and human rights-based framework and that any policy is competent;
  • A national training resource on domestic abuse and housing should be developed to build organisational understanding of the issue; and
  • The Scottish Housing Regulator should issue guidance to social landlords which sets out requirements to demonstrate how they have improved housing outcomes for each of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 in their Annual Assurance Statement.

Jo Ozga, housing policy worker at Scottish Women’s Aid, said:

“Domestic abuse remains the leading cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland. We are disappointed that, despite making pledges and receiving clear best practice guidance on how to build a suitable domestic abuse policy, social landlords are still failing to act to protect women and children.

“With the cost of living crisis disproportionately impacting women, and further constraining the already very limited choices that those experiencing domestic abuse have, it is more important than ever that social landlords grasp the gendered nature of domestic abuse. Policies alone won’t do it, but with social landlords due to receive new powers later this year as part of the enactment of the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Act, and a new Housing Bill on the horizon, the time is right for the Scottish Government, local authorities and social landlords to put their promises into action to improve the housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.”

Callum Chomczuk, national director of CIH Scotland said:  

“In 2020 CIH Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid highlighted concerns that relying on landlords to voluntarily improve their practice was going to be inadequate and our analysis confirms this view.

“While we welcome the measures taken by the Scottish Government in recent years to support victim-survivors it is not enough, we need to see greater leadership at a national and a local level to ensure that every social landlord has an effective domestic abuse policy so that ultimately there is a demonstrable improvement in the housing outcomes of women and children experiencing domestic abuse.”