Alison Inman, former Chartered Institute of Housing President, dedicated her tenure to championing the issue of domestic violence, increasing awareness in the social housing sector. This legacy has been continued by the current CIH President, Jim Strang. The recent 'Breaking Down the Barriers Report' speaks directly to the sector's concerns, detailing the findings of the National Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Multiple Disadvantage. The report highlights:
- domestic violence can often lead to women experiencing other forms of disadvantage;
- support services often provide support in silos, missing the opportunities to provide overall assistance;
- support services will often only gain access to women when they have reached crisis point;
- there is no routine investigation by services into the links between individual disadvantage and domestic violence;
- unsurprisingly BME and refugee women face additional barriers to support.
Recommendations from the report applicable to social housing providers include:
- support services advised to work collaboratively to overcome silos;
- where there is multiple disadvantage so too should there should be standard enquiries by support services into domestic and sexual violence. These enquiries should be made more than once;
- service providers should recruit from a values stance, ensuring empathy and relationship-building skills are given due weight;
- service providers should seek to recruit, retain and progress employees with lived experience of domestic abuse;
- Housing First should be rolled out nationally in place of hostel accommodation with gendered support;
- support women caring for their children and helping appropriately to avoid child removal;
- processes must be co-produced with women with lived experience.
Many social housing providers have already observed a review of their services in relation to domestic violence, and this report highlights ongoing and suggested work that can be undertaken.
"Women facing multiple disadvantage have very complex, overlapping needs and are at the sharpest end of inequality. Their experiences of disadvantage are frequently underpinned by a history of extensive violence and abuse, and they often face high rates of mental health problems, substance misuse, contact with the criminal justice system and issues around housing or homelessness."