Amendment 146A

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 8 February 2021.

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Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 5:45, 8 February 2021

My Lords, Amendment 146A, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, is one I fully support. I would have signed it if there had been a space, but people got there before me. The amendment ensures that someone made homeless as a result of domestic abuse will have priority need for housing support. It cannot be right that a victim is left with the choice of staying with an abusive partner or becoming homeless. That is no choice at all. The amendment would allow the applicant for homelessness assistance to be either a survivor or someone who resides with the survivor—but, of course, not the abuser. Again, enabling somebody else in the household to make an application could be an important protection.

I was delighted to sign Amendment 147, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, which would ensure that local connection cannot be used as a restriction when someone applies for housing, either in a refuge, in other temporary accommodation or in longer-term accommodation. This is very important to enable someone to get the help and support they want, to get them near to friends, to get them away to a place where they are not known or to get them wherever they want. It enables those in difficult, dangerous situations to get somewhere where they can rebuild their lives.

I want to thank Women’s Aid and other organisations for the help they have given all noble Lords on this Bill and for their general work. I have always been grateful to Women’s Aid for its advice on a number of issues. The example that the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, gave from Women’s Aid highlights the reason his amendment needs to be agreed—or, if the noble Baroness cannot agree the amendment, I hope she recognises the problem and will try to resolve it by bringing something back on Report.

In our discussion last week, we looked at the risks to victims, at home or at work, of being murdered. We have to ensure that, if somebody leaves a relationship, they can get somewhere they are safe and can rebuild their lives. It might be that they want to move to a completely different part of the country where no one knows them at all. Some victims have to completely cut off contact with abusers, because some abusers would do their damnedest to find somebody. We know people can choose not to be on the electoral register and that there is anonymous registration, but what shops they go to and where their families and friends are will still be known, so we have to ensure that people who want to can get away completely and start life afresh. That is why the noble Lord’s amendment is so important—so that no local authority can suggest, “Oh, you can’t come here because you’ve got no connection”. “That’s exactly why I want to come here—I’ve got no connection.” That is a really important issue. I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness at the end of the debate.