"If this is not fixed, it could be really disastrous for large numbers of older and vulnerable people." David Orr, NHF's chief executive
Last year I read that one of the UK's biggest landlords, Fergus Wilson, 69, was instructing all of his letting agents to turn away 'battered wives', single parents, low income workers or on zero hour contracts. So, at the exact same time that two women are being killed every single week in the U.K by Domestic Violence, this man decided to victimise, discriminate and exclude vulnerable women. If he owned a single property I would have still found this outrageous but the fact that he is among the UK's most successful buy-to-let investors, with a property empire that consists of over 1,000 homes in Kent, infuriated me.
A single hard-hearted landlord is one thing, but what about when our government decides to effectively do the very same thing? It has just been announced by housing Chiefs that Tory policies will deny homes to hundreds of thousands of domestic abuse victims and disabled people
So, what is going on?
In short, a disastrous conservative policy comprised of funding rules that is shutting services and directly effecting the safety and lives of our most vulnerable citizens. A huge shortage of sheltered and supported housing is set to worsen the lives of older and disabled people, victims of domestic violence, ex-servicemen and women who rely on the homes to live independently and to stay out of residential care or hospital. Or, in the case of two women every week, the morgue.
This forecast predicts a shortfall of 300,000 homes by 2030, 240,000 of which are sheltered properties needed by pensioners alone. This crisis was described as a "ticking time-bomb" triggered by a policy switch dubbed a "backdoor bedroom tax" when it was first reported in The Independent last year.
On the 8th of May, I was the chairwoman for a Domestic Abuse debate at The University of East London. One of the panellists Kathy Evans CEO, Children England hit the nail on the head when she addressed the massive problem we have in solving the prevalence of coercive control when she said:
'Coercive Control is not just a problem in relationships and families, controlling and bullying behaviours are all too prevalent throughout our society. And too often the bullies win - in the playground, the workplace, the boardroom and the benefits system. The whole benefits system that was meant to offer support in people's hour of need has become more like a controlling partner - demanding compliance with orders and imposing sanctions for not being where they're meant to be; controlling and withdrawing money; living under the fear that one wrong move could lose the roof over their heads; not accepting 'excuses' or listening to explanations; repeatedly challenging whether they're 'really' telling the truth. The recognition of the patterns and damage of coercive control that has been pioneered in the domestic abuse sector is vitally important, but the journey to creating a society where it's neither ignored no rewarded is a long and far-reaching one.' Kathy Evans CEO, Children England
I instantly thought Kathy's point was a great one, but it resonated with me even more when I read this headline. According to the government's official statistics on disability issues, there are over 11 million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability in the U.K. They already have too many odds stacked up against them from housing to employment. Disabled women in particular are twice more likely to experience domestic violence than non-disabled women, and they are also likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time and to suffer more severe injuries as a result of the violence, which means a significant proportion of the population will tick more than one box in this disturbing development. The same will be true for our elderly community, many of whom have worked hard all their lives, as the prevalence of disability rises with age. Around 6% of children are disabled, compared to 16% of working age adults and 45% of adults over State Pension age.
Our disabled community already struggles with housing and employment; in the U.K, there is a 30.1 percentage gap between disabled and non-disabled people in employment. As the mother to a disabled girl, I'm struggling to get my head around what kind of world she's growing up in when the government can and will make life for vulnerable people like her even harder.
National network of more than 100 community based housing associations, PlaceShapers, have reported that 2,000 new homes had been scrapped and that Golden Lane Housing had aborted plans to raise more than £100m through "social finance". YMCA England have also said that a "significant number" of its projects could close.
When you bear in mind that 75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after (or as they attempt to) they leave their partners, a victim looking for housing is at risk and needs the governments' help and support.
I will certainly be watching this unfold and asking what needs to be done to support our most vulnerable, this policy simply cannot go ahead if we want to call ourselves a civilised country.
'In a country well-governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.' Confucius