Domestic abuse has to be taken seriously

(17 November, 2016) Editorials

Simply put, if you’re a victim of domestic abuse you’re not even safe in your own home - which means you can never escape the torment

13224Sisters Uncut demonstrate outside Southwark Council's offices in Tooley Street

The importance of local authorities being able to offer safe refuge to people in this terrible situation cannot be overstated.

There’s a large group of needy people on the list for priority housing, but what the campaign by feminist group Sisters Uncut has done is refocus the attention of council bosses, so that domestic abuse victims who appeal for help are taken seriously.

Information and training for housing officers will be provided – clearly much needed, given that the group says 47 per cent of male and female domestic abuse victims were turned away when seeking refuge. And the council will also see if there are any ‘proactive changes’ it can make to its housing allocations policy.

The campaign group accuses the council of ‘stripping vulnerable people of their dignity’ – we would argue that the council has no intention of doing this, but is right to listen to Sisters Uncut and try to improve the situation. It’s about resources, and the effective use of them, and also about educating council staff and enabling them to recognise the signs of domestic abuse, and knowing how to help them.

Aside from training, the key issue is housing, and the group’s finding that 1,270 council homes were vacant at one point in 2016 is truly eye-watering. If this statistic is correct, along with Southwark having half the number of temporary accommodation beds than nearby Bromley – just 24 – then clearly something in the system has gone badly wrong.

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