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Domestic abuse survivors are sleeping rough as councils turn them away

Some were told that they had made themselves intentionally homeless by leaving their abuser, according to charity Women’s Aid

Survivors of domestic abuse and their children are sleeping rough as local authorities fail to find them safe accommodation, according to a new report from charity Women’s Aid.

The survey found some of the most vulnerable women the domestic abuse charity supported between January 2017 and 2018 were unable to immediately access a refuge.

Of the 264 women supported by the No Woman Turned Away project, 12 per cent were forced to sleep rough before making contact, including pregnant women and women with children.

The project helps women with additional complex needs who are unable to secure a safe refuge place through calling the national domestic violence helpline.

One in ten women were told they had made themselves intentionally homeless

It found that almost half of the women surveyed were forced to sofa-surf while waiting for a refuge spot. Eight per cent gave up the search and unfortunately had to return to the abuser.

And with plans in place to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from welfare systems, concerns have been raised by the charity about the potential for more women to end up sleeping rough.

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Nearly 100 of the women supported by the project since January last year had approached their local housing team for support but more than half were prevented from making a homeless application, with one in ten told they had made themselves intentionally homeless.

Nearly a quarter were told they were not a priority need despite having multiple vulnerabilities (such as children or mental health problems) and 15 per cent were required to provide proof they had experienced domestic abuse.

Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, called on agencies to “stop putting obstacles in the way” of women leaving an abusive situation.

“It is no wonder that women and their children who are literally fleeing for their lives end up sleeping rough or returning to an abusive partner if they are turned away from services who should be helping them,” she said.

She added that the report showed that survivors needed the specialist support provided by domestic abuse services when they were at their most vulnerable, and called on the government to give survivors “a cast-iron guarantee” that the “dangerous planned changes to how refuges will be funded are firmly off the table”.

As the government introduces the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill, the charity and other supporters have raised concerns that demand for support will only increase.

The Women’s Aid 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline can be reached on 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership with Refuge)

Image: iStock

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