Thoughts on how housing providers improve their support
Interviewees were asked what would have improved their experience with housing providers. Those who responded with ideas about improvements largely focused on practical measures that housing providers could offer rather than specifically about the quality of the support they had experienced. As mentioned previously, Trudy had received letters about a tenancy breach regarding the condition of her garden, and this was something that had greatly worried her. For her, hiring equipment such as lawnmowers or offering cost-effective practical services such as gardening or simply grass cutting would have eased the tension around receiving letters about a tenancy breach.
I said to them well even if you were to bring somebody out and like hire them or whether it was part of my housing agreement or ’cause obviously you have like to a degree where repair men come out and they say it’s like I don’t know is the garden kind of classed as that or in like under exceptional circumstances. But because they said the only exceptional circumstances they’ve got is the elderly and disabled and they thought that maybe they should maybe expand it a bit.
Mary who was in her mid-70s and felt that she could not have moved into a refuge when she was offered the option. She had refused the refuge place and opted to stay in the home she lived in with the perpetrator whilst awaiting an offer of a property. Mary felt that there was a gap in suitable temporary accommodation for those leaving an abusive partner and spoke about the impact of waiting for a property to become available. The issue of good quality, safe, temporary accommodation for those who didn’t want a refuge place but wanted to leave whilst awaiting an offer of property was also highlighted in the interviews with housing professionals who felt frustrated about the lack of safe, emergency accommodation for those customers who don’t want to access a refuge. Mary spoke about the wait for a property and the uncertainty and stress this caused at various points in the interview:
You know, like ... [support worker] said 1 could have gone into a refuge. Now that for me ... [shakes head and indicates it was not for her] I mean, there obviously had to be a time factor in getting a home. But maybe if there was a temporary- well 1 think, you know, like in the darkest days you’re thinking ‘Ee my God where am I going to end up?’ I think it’s the wait. But I know you can’t do anything about that, that’s quite ... that’s very understandable.
Nicky made a similar point; she accessed refuge accommodation via her housing provider and still had her tenancy. Nicky was waiting for another property to become available as she could not return to her existing tenancy as the perpetrator had since been released from prison. Nicky advised that she had needed support when she first came to the refuge and it had been useful but now she was waiting for a property whilst residing in the refuge purely as she had nowhere else to go which she felt was holding her back from getting on with her life.
Whilst many comments focused on the lack of housing options available other than refuge, Sally highlighted the lack of a joined-up approach when many agencies are involved. Sally described one of the frustrations she had felt was about the number of support agencies involved and how this could sometimes be rather overwhelming and illustrated a lack of coordination between agencies.
1 think like 1 said earlier just trying not to ... well it’s not so much pestering me but the level of contact, do you know what I mean? When they keep phoning you, maybes they could go through like [domestic abuse charity] or the police, do you know, rather than ... like I say, rather than everyone phoning you, keep repeating yourself.
Interviewees spoke about the pressure of waiting to be offered a property, and there was a difference in this impact between women in a property and those in a refuge. The women who took part in the group interview in the refuge and Nicky (who was living in a refuge) expressed experiencing a greater lack of control in their housing situation. A key point emphasised by the women in a refuge was a feeling of being ignored and a sense of being ‘done to’. Women expressed frustration at not having any real control, knowledge or choice over pursuing their housing options. The point was made that women felt that they had to take the first property offered as they were afraid of the repercussions if they didn’t accept that property - making them wonder if there would be another offer, would it be better or worse? There was a feeling of having to accept a property, even if they felt that it was unsuitable and being powerless in some cases to refuse a property. In effect, by having some feeling of choice in choosing a home would in effect mean that the tenancy would be more likely to be sustained and had a major part in recovery.
And like you’re in fear of well if you refuse it then that’s it, they’re not going to come back to you.
Aye, you’ll go to the bottom of the list, won’t you?
In addition to this worry, accepting an offer of property had other impacts, including finance-related concerns.
Well I did in the past and I accepted one that was in the middle of nowhere and I struggled, was stranded and like food was expensive ’cause there was only one local shop but it was the thought that ‘Ee God, how long am I going to wait for the next one?
This uncertainty had a negative impact in that women were unsure of their rights in refusing a property and what they could expect throughout the process. The uncertainty of waiting for an offer of property also meant that women felt that they were often unable to begin to move on in life and make plans.
Just been stuck on the waiting list for a while and it’s just ... waiting ... what’s more frustrating is waiting for people to get back to you for information to see where you’d more or less stand.
Yeah, it really is stressful, the length of time you have to wait, and you are more or less stuck in limbo, it’s like ... you can’t exactly plan anything.
In the refuge interview, there was a view that barriers such as rent arrears prevented re-housing in many cases. This was despite the fact that many housing providers state that they accept women with rent arrears in domestic abuse cases where there is an agreement to pay arrears at an affordable rate (despite the fact that arrears can often be caused by the perpetrator).
I’ve seen women in here and they’ve like had rent arrears, sometimes they’re more interested in that than the stress that the women are under and then sometimes they don’t realise maybe these arears were caused by these partners, you know what 1 mean?
Moreover, women had been told that they couldn’t access a property because of the arrears and the problem in paying back arrears they could not afford.
... they can’t really afford to be paying these arrears back and then on top of being told you can’t get a house because you’ve got these arrears.