27 Jan Homeless Action Scotland: Summary of Domestic Abuse Bill
Our mission is to be the leading organisation influencing and supporting the development and implementation of effective policy and practice that meets the challenges of homelessness in Scotland. Not just working to help people out of homelessness but to create a Scotland where homelessness can be avoided.
We have participated in the Homelessness Prevention Task Force, Homelessness Task Force/ Homelessness Monitoring Group, Rough Sleepers Initiative, Health and Homelessness Steering Group, Supporting People Stakeholders Group and a range of other steering and consultative groups. Our members inform the views we take to all of these bodies.
The Bill creates additional protection for people who are at risk of domestic abuse, particularly where they are living with their abuser.
The Bill is trying to fill a gap by allowing immediate protection for a short time for a person experiencing domestic abuse. This is to keep them safe while they work out what to do next.
The Bill gives additional protection to people in social housing who experience domestic abuse. It enables landlords to apply to the court to end the tenancy rights of someone who has been abusive to their partner or ex-partner. Landlords can only do this if the person who has been abused wishes to continue living in the house.
Homeless Action Scotland have concerns that within the bill there is not a duty on a social landlord to create a tenancy for the survivor of domestic abuse. The bill as it currently stands makes it possible for a social landlord to evict the perpetrator of domestic abuse and not offer a tenancy to the survivor. This then allows for local housing policies or practices to decide wether or not the victim is entitled to a tenancy. If the intention of the bill is to protect the housing rights of victims of domestic abuse and end the practice of survivors having to present as homeless, then the legislation has to be strengthened. If it were changed to a right of the survivor to obtain the tenancy, rather than a choice of the social landlord, this would give survivors the protection that is intended with this bill.
DAPN’s should only be issued by police as they are orders which can effectively bring about criminal charges, if they are breached. We have concerns that a housing officer will in effect become judge, jury and executioner on a person’s housing rights. If a housing officer has suspicions, concerns or evidence of domestic abuse, this should be submitted to the police. Our society has a long history in investigations and judgements being carried out independently of one another and for a good reason.
Should someone be issued with a DAPO/DAPN then it essentially bars them from returning to their home while the order is in place. In line with other civil orders of this type, there is no necessity for the social landlord to provide advice and assistance. Although it is not explicit within the homelessness legislation, anyone who is issued with one of the above orders would be entitled to present to a local authority where they have a local connection, for homelessness assistance.
Right to Move
We also believe that should the victim of the domestic abuse wish to move to another part of the area they live and the landlord has stock, then the legislation provides that they are moved. Victims of domestic abuse often feel fearful of the place where the abuse takes place. If we are trying to support victims with this legislation then not only should we be giving victims the control over their current tenancy, we should be moving them to another property that their current landlord owns if this is their preference. There may be local policies which dictate that this may be able to happen but it is our experience without it being part of the statutory legislation, victims of domestic abuse have been let down by their landlords time and again. If we are serious about protecting the vulnerable we must ensure that being given a move to another property once the victim has the SST is part of this legislation.
The timescale that is in the legislation states that a person who is a victim of domestic abuse, only qualifies for the creation of a new tenancy after 6 months. This figure seems to be rather arbitrary believe that time is not a factor which is taken into consideration in order to be given the protections this legislation offers.
Homeless Action Scotland believe that as there is a large component of this legislation that involves housing and homelessness that it needs to be discussed at the Local Government and Communities Committee.
We were invited to give oral evidence where we discussed various parts of the above argument under scrutiny from the Justice Committee, the transcript is available on this link. As a follow up to this we submitted a follow up document which goes into a bit more detail regarding the moving of a survivor of domestic abuse which is available here.