Aileen Campbell: Protecting women experiencing domestic abuse
Communities secretary Aileen Campbell outlines how the Scottish Government is improving housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
The Scottish Government is clear that domestic abuse is completely unacceptable and that all women should be able to access support which meets their particular needs.
Unfortunately women experiencing abuse often have to uproot their entire life and family to be placed in temporary accommodation that doesn’t meet their needs, adding the deep anxiety caused by a risk of homelessness to the trauma they have already suffered.
With this in mind, domestic abuse continues to be a core focus in our housing and homelessness policy. It is vital that women and children have a secure, settled home and access to the support they need in order to live their life with good health and wellbeing. It is not acceptable that their rights and dignity are misplaced and ignored.
Recognising the key role that housing providers can play in preventing homelessness for survivors of domestic abuse, we commissioned the Chartered Institute for Housing (CIH) Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) to produce recommendations for improving housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
The report was published last week, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the working group for their time, commitment and dedication in undertaking this work – particularly the co-chairs from SWA and CIH. I know this report is the culmination of many years of supporting women and children experiencing domestic abuse, as well as many years of research.
We will now work closely with housing providers and other partners across Scotland to implement the recommendations.
In the meantime, it is vital that women and children experiencing domestic abuse are aware of the support available to them. There are a range of organisations in Scotland offering emotional support and confidential advice on topics including legal advice, safety and support for your children alongside housing. Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline remains open during the pandemic, offering 24/7 support via phone, webchat and email.
The new Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill introduced measures to provide the police and courts with new powers to protect people experiencing domestic abuse and give social landlords greater control over ending or transferring tenancies to keep women and children safe. If passed by Parliament these provisions will help improve the immediate and longer term housing outcomes of domestic abuse victims living in social housing who wish to continue living in the family home, including by helping to avoid homelessness.
Guidance for social landlords published by CIH/SWA and partners in August last year provides comprehensive information on how social housing organisations can support people experiencing domestic abuse. So I very much welcome this report which reiterates the importance of that guidance and outlines a comprehensive set of actions to address this and other issues.
We all have a responsibility to support people who experience domestic abuse and not bury our heads in the sand. We must provide people with the tailored support they need and deserve, to ensure they have the best housing outcome possible. It may require some organisations and providers to have a complete culture and system change but things won’t change for the better until we all adjust our ways of working.
People deserve better and we have the opportunity in Scotland to make the changes needed and end homelessness together.