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Women’s Aid — [Dr William McCrea in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:59 pm on 14th March 2012.

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Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth 2:59 pm, 14th March 2012

I agree. That will make a difference to women in such situations.

In my constituency, domestic abuse and violence is at the top of the police agenda in west London. The police take it very seriously. The matter was brought home to me when I was out campaigning on the streets one day, as many of us do as Members of Parliament, and a 16-year-old boy asked me what I was doing. I explained and asked him, “What is the most important issue around here?” He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Domestic violence.” I was really moved by that. Perhaps some of the work that has been done on prevention and in schools is beginning to make an impact now and young people are beginning to understand that it is an important issue. I have visited refuges in my constituency. They are a haven for women who need them at their lowest point in life and at their time of need.

I raised the issue of housing earlier, because it is one of the important factors for allowing a woman to rebuild her life following an abusive situation. Hestia, an organisation in London, put together a report that I launched on international women’s day last week. The report made some good recommendations on housing, such as having someone at the council who is trained in and understands domestic abuse issues so that they can make the right decisions. An important aspect is the link to temporary housing, which came home to me when a woman visited my weekly surgery one day. She has a seven-year-old child and for 18 months has been in one of the refuges in my constituency. She is currently on band C on the housing register, which in London probably means a wait of six or seven years to get proper housing.

I started a campaign to persuade Hounslow council—my council—to try to move victims of domestic abuse up the priority list. Avoiding temporary housing or bed and breakfast accommodation would really make a massive difference to the lives of women and their children, because temporary housing, unlike permanent housing, means more instability.