Woman fleeing domestic violence ‘not supported’ into permanent Welwyn Hatfield accommodation

PUBLISHED: 09:55 16 November 2020 | UPDATED: 11:23 18 November 2020

A victim of domestic abuse claims WHBC failed to provide her with the support she needed. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - posed by model.

A victim of domestic abuse claims WHBC failed to provide her with the support she needed. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - posed by model.

Archant

A woman who fled domestic violence earlier this year has not been supported in finding permanent accommodation in Welwyn Hatfield.

The woman – who has no local connection, meaning she will not go on the housing needs register – fled during the first lockdown and has been diagnosed with mental health issues as a result of the abuse she endured.

She told the WHT: “This is absolutely terrible considering the reasons as to why I am not able to go back to my [home].

“I have police reports stating that I should not be housed in my area as this is a high risk case, as my [abuser] continuously breached bail conditions throughout the court procedure and has now also breached his restraining order.

“I also have doctors notes stating that because of domestic violence I now struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. I think there needs to be more support surrounding the needs of housing for domestic violence victims.”

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has supported her at a woman’s refuge but this left the victim feeling “uncomfortable”, so she moved to other temporary accommodation, supported by housing officers.

She continued: “I have launched an appeal for my homeless application to be overturned, however, I doubt they will change their mind.

“Domestic violence is serious and many people are struggling to get the correct accommodation.

“Many people are also struggling with getting housed out of the area just because they have no local connection. I feel that in situations like these you should not need to be from the local area to receive help from a council and that there should be much more support around this.”

The WHT has seen a letter from Herts police that confirms she is “a high-risk domestic abuse victim”.

And even though a letter from WHBC acknowledges that “[her] homelessness has a negative effect on her well-being”, the council says it is “satisfied that she is not significantly more vulnerable than ordinarily vulnerable as a result of being rendered homeless”.

WHBC has said it cannot respond to this specific case due to confidentiality but that it will support those fleeing violence.

A spokeswoman said: “When someone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness approaches us for help, it is our responsibility to either prevent their homelessness or assist them in finding other accommodation.”

This work involves speaking to landlords or relatives to prevent homelessness, working with landlords and agents and charities and housing association to find accommodation and providing upfront costs such as deposit and initial payments of rent.

They also look at whether being put on the housing needs list will allow them to get a property.

“In most cases our enquiries will involve speaking to third parties to confirm information provided or to determine what accommodation would be suitable for the applicant. However, it is not always possible and sometimes not appropriate to do so, for example, when an individual or household is homeless due to violence or other abuse. In such a scenario we would not contact a perpetrator to confirm the situation.

“In cases where domestic abuse is the cause of homelessness, we have engaged the services of SADA [Survivors Against Domestic Abuse] as our partner, who carry out the prevention, relief and advice work for those cases. They work with those families and individuals whose lives have been affected or homelessness caused by domestic abuse, to identify their preferences and requirements, with the intended goal of securing suitable, sustainable accommodation away from any risk of harm.

“You can ask any council for homelessness help if you’re at risk in your home or can’t stay there because of domestic abuse.”

There is no legal requirement to provide emergency housing to domestic abuse victims but the government has planned to change the law, which has not yet been introduced, according to housing charity Shelter.

Shelter advises that the council must help with emergency housing if you’re classed as priority need, which is if you have children with you, you’re pregnant or you’re a care leaver under 21. And even if none of these apply, the council must help with emergency housing if they think you’re vulnerable due to abuse or physical or mental health problems.


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