Amendment 146A

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Bull Baroness Bull Crossbench 5:45, 8 February 2021

My Lords, I rise to speak briefly in support of Amendment 146A, so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. Like him, I welcome the extension of automatic priority-need status for housing to survivors of domestic abuse, but I share his regret that there is no current right for anyone who lives with the survivor, or might reasonably be expected to live with them, to apply for this assistance on their behalf. This amendment aims to address this and to ensure that survivors have access to what one has been described as the first and most important priority for anyone escaping domestic abuse—a safe roof over their head.

Domestic abuse is often about control. There is a horrible, perhaps inevitable, consequence when that control is challenged, which is that abusers are likely to become even more violent as they seek to reinstate or retain their dominance over their victim. My noble friend Lady Finlay has already said the risk of domestic homicide is at its highest during separation. Research studies show that the worst incidents of abuse are triggered by the victim having left the abuser, and the abuse is even more extreme if the victim has left for another partner. In such cases, the risk of femicide increases fivefold. Interviews with men who killed their wives in the United States pointed to separation or a threat of separation as the most common trigger for the murder. This means that the difficult decision by a victim of domestic abuse to leave their abuser and seek out support may well result not in the provision of a safe haven but in further victimisation, physical risk and even risk to life.

Front-line services in both the domestic abuse and the homelessness sectors are clear about the potential risks to survivors of abuse in making an application for homelessness assistance themselves. They know that abusers will employ the most varied and creative tactics to track their partner, from using GPS locators in their partner’s phone to calling around women’s shelters or even filing a missing persons report. Front-line workers know that in some cases a call for help may become a death sentence.

This amendment addresses this risk and provides an important safeguarding mechanism by allowing an ally to fill in the application, thus allowing victims of abuse to make plans without running the risk of those plans, or the location of their future home, being discovered by their abuser. It has the backing of Women’s Aid and of the APPG for Ending Homelessness. I urge the Government to listen carefully to their arguments and to the arguments in your Lordships’ House and to adopt this amendment so that survivors of domestic abuse have a clear legal route to that most basic of needs—a safe roof over their heads.