Part of Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 8th February 2021.
My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 146A and I support Amendment 147, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Randall. Like others, I welcome the provisions in the Bill, but this is rather typical of the pattern of responses to many aspects of the Bill: the amendment seeks to tweak the provisions to ensure that the Bill works as I believe is intended.
There is an assumption that refuges are the answer to abuse, but that they should be only temporary for reasons relating to the individuals who occupy them and because people who get stuck in them become, to use an unpleasant term, bed blockers, which is not how anyone would like to see themselves. Refuges are certainly not a permanent solution. There are not enough refuge spaces even for temporary provision, and it is very natural for victims to want the security of their own home for themselves and their children.
Like others, I am indebted to the organisations which know their way around the legislation that relates to their own services, as is the case here. Of course, domestic abuse is by no means the only cause of homelessness, which is why one has to look at priority need. But, given that the Government have addressed this, the Bill should be complete and replicate the provisions allowing applications to be made on behalf of vulnerable individuals, as other noble Lords have said. It must be safe for the survivor to access the housing.
As regards Amendment 147, there is no need to repeat the debate about why it may be essential for someone to get right away from her or his local area. No one with children would contemplate that; you only have to think about school and social connections. I have to say I am not entirely sure how one would administer “likely to become” a victim. I remember from my days as a local councillor the difficulties related to the size of a family, because you cannot take account of a child who is not yet born. But the importance of enabling someone to get away before there is too much harm is obvious, and the need to get away demonstrates how extreme the situation must be, because often you want the support of your community for yourself and your children.
The scope for more joint working between local authorities is outside this Bill, but the use of reciprocal arrangements has a very helpful, if not very big, place in this scene. But the real issue is the need for more support and, overall, more housing supply. Not for the first time, it is a matter of resources. For every housing offer to one person, someone else is not receiving an offer.