One Housing announces new domestic abuse policy

10 Aug 2020

Across the country housing organisations have unique access to their communities. We build, manage, and maintain homes, and we provide something most people would consider to be their most important possession, a home. If a home doesn’t provide safety and security, it simply becomes just bricks and mortar.

One Housing has recently reviewed its approach to domestic abuse. As an organisation we have supported the government’s #YouAreNotAlone campaign to help victims of domestic abuse as well as fulfilling the requirements of the Chartered Institute Of Housing’s #Makeastandcampaign, which included reviewing our policies, staff training, promoting support for domestic abuse victims, and appointing a domestic abuse champion for the business.

Unfortunately, many victims of domestic abuse do try to get help, but don’t get the right help. Too many families are only getting help when the abuse reaches a crisis point after being turned away without the correct reference numbers by organisations, and eventually the police are called, often by neighbours. This means that for many families the initial response to domestic abuse within their household is primarily focussed on immediate action taken by the police, which is often only a short-term solution. We as a housing provider look at how the family can be safe from abuse, what’s best for them, and how we can provide long term support with long term risk reduction.

One Housing recognise that there should not be pressure on victims of abuse to make a report to the police or provide crime reference numbers to One Housing in order to obtain support. Whether victims decide to report domestic abuse to the police should be their personal choice. If residents decide not to report domestic abuse to the police, it is imperative that we acknowledge and respect their decision ensuring that we fully support the whole family, which will often include making referrals to partner agencies, with their permission.

We recognise that as an organisation, we need to think outside the box and contact other partner agencies such as schools, healthcare professionals, probation officers, support networks such as charities, mental health, and drug and alcohol services. In our experience it is often quicker to access information and share information with these agencies and families are often more likely to share information with these services which helps us to fully assess the risk and understand the families’ situation. Following consultation with residents, partners, our resident panels and customer service committee, we have launched a new Domestic Abuse Policy which puts residents at the heart of every decision.

A recent case study:

“We were contacted by a family social worker who was concerned about a mother’s options following serious domestic abuse and violence. The perpetrator, her husband and joint tenant, was no longer residing in the home but was using the excuse of child contact to carry on harassment and intimidation. The Domestic Abuse & Safeguarding Coordinator and Housing Officer held a joint meeting with the mother, her Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) and her family social worker. The mother had applied for legal aid to take action against her husband but had not qualified and could not afford to go private.

An action plan was agreed to protect the mother and prevent the children from witnessing further domestic abuse. One Housing applied for an injunction with the support of the mother, social services and the police. This joint action via One Housing has led to an injunction with power of arrest that excludes the husband from the area around the home. The partners all commended One Housing for acting quickly and being supportive. Since the injunction was granted, we have kept in close contact with the mother and her support workers, reacting to her needs as necessary. The injunction and support have given the mother the space she needs to be safe and secure. It has also given her the space needed to petition for divorce and apply for a property adjustment order.”

In December 2019 we received £15 million of capital grant to deliver 115 homes, as well as revenue funding to provide support, as part of the Mayor of London’s ‘move-on’ homes programme to help rough sleepers and to support victims of violence against women and girls. Residents will be provided with support including for mental health issues, financial management, help finding employment, education or training opportunities, and referrals to other agencies.

Supporting our staff is critical in delivering our services to our residents. As part of One Housing’s commitment to supporting staff, any employee experiencing domestic abuse is entitled to up to ten days paid leave in a rolling 12-month period to deal with issues arising from this experience which could be childcare issues, court appearances, or incidents at home.

We know that for most victims coming forward, acknowledging they are experiencing domestic abuse and asking for help is difficult and often traumatic, therefore it is important that we get our response to reports of domestic abuse right first time. Every day hundreds of thousands of domestic abuse victims and their families are living in fear, in their own homes. One Housing are striving to support residents to sustain their tenancies and ensuring that they have a safe place to call home.