A suite of housing options and interventions that all aim to improve safety to victims

  • • Flexible funding
  • • Sanctuary Scheme
  • • Managed Reciprocals
  • • Perpetrator management

The involvement of domestic abuse services is key for effective and safe delivery and for offering victims/survivors specialist support.

Flexible funding is a fairly new initiative that offers funds to help victims/survivors to access safe housing. The initiative was used with success in the United States and forms a part of the WHA in the UK and is being piloted at the Cambridge and London sites. Flexible funds may be used to overcome any barrier preventing access to secure housing, including rent deposits, car repairs (which may prevent a person from getting to work and thereby put their employment at risk), removal costs or school transport costs. It is designed to give victims/survivors more control over their housing situation and reduces the likelihood that they will need to access emergency housing options. While some local domestic abuse services already offer emergency or hardship funds, they often entail very specific requirements. This is the first time that genuinely flexible funding, with the aim of supporting victims/survivors to access stable housing, has been available. Access to flexible funding does not require proof of domestic abuse and seeks to give the victim autonomy over what they need to do to improve their housing situation.

Sanctuary Schemes are a multi-agency victim/survivor-centred initiative that aims to enable households at risk of violence to remain in their own homes and reduce repeat harm. Sanctuary Schemes are the addition of extra security measures in a home, and this could be alarm systems, reinforced doors and locks, fire proofing or a range of other measures. They are installed in circumstances when the perpetrator is no longer living in the home to provide a safe environment for the survivor. Within the WHA, this option is made available to households across tenures and where the installation of security measures is not in breach of the tenancy agreement or property rights under the agreement.

Managed Housing Reciprocals are voluntary collaborations between local authorities and housing associations that are coordinated by an independent third agency. The aim is to enable those tenants in the social housing sector who are at risk of abuse to move to a safe area without losing the associated rights of their existing social tenancy. The coordinating agency keeps track of moves to ensure that the system is fair for all housing providers involved and works closely with domestic abuse specialist services to ensure that victims/survivors are supported through their relocation.

The perpetrator management element of the toolkit considers the existing legislation for anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse that social landlords can utilise to address behaviour. This includes positive engagement strategies and enforcement activities that involve working with other agencies to deliver a coordinated community response in relation to perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Impact of the WHA pilots

Since the initial project activities began in April 2019 until December 2019, the project supported a total of 1,740 victim/survivors directly and 2,134 children indirectly.

This has included:

  • • 1,377 victim/survivors receiving support from a mobile advocacy or co-located housing advocacy domestic abuse service
  • • 107 victim/survivors receiving flexible funding to help them secure more stable accommodation
  • • 256 victim/survivors having Sanctuary Scheme installations, with the majority having security enhancements made to an existing home in order to prevent them from having to relocate or become homeless

The full WHA toolkit sets out guidance and advice meaning that other areas could establish the approach. At the time of writing, the pilots have recently concluded their first year and received funding for the second year. This presents an interesting case study about how each area implements this policy choice and their interpretation of what this policy approach means for their area. This ‘enabling’ approach to policy allows experimentation and looks at outcomes in a multi-dimensional way rather than to dogma to be blindly followed.

The WHA operates with a Board for each pilot area comprising partners who deliver the responses. This partnership approach to implementation of the WHA is not new, and the landscape of the 1980s and 1990s saw an introduction of new frameworks and partnerships which gave more scope for ‘bottom-up’ approach to influence policy. New Labour argued that social issues were multi-dimensional, and as such, no single agency could effectively provide a solution, but rather, there were multiple players and the response lay in local coordination.

The WHA pilots allows the agencies in local areas to determine what they will focus on representing a real role for front-line workers in changing policy and using findings on the ground to influence policy direction. The funding from MHCLG signifies this chiming with a governmental willingness to explore options developed from the bottom-up. It remains to be seen if the evaluations of the pilots influence future policy directions in relation to domestic abuse and housing.

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