Domestic abuse survivors are being forced to choose between sleeping on the streets or returning to their abusers because of local authority rules, a damning report has warned.
Each year, councils in England fail to provide safe homes to around 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse after deeming them not vulnerable enough for help, a joint investigation by Crisis and parliament’s group for ending homelessness revealed on Thursday.
This is because – under the current system – not everyone escaping domestic abuse is considered “priority need” for help finding permanent housing, they said.
“It’s beyond heart-breaking that people fleeing for their lives are being forced to choose between homelessness or returning to their abusers because the services that should have found them a safe home don’t consider them a priority,” said Labour MP Neil Coyle, who leads parliament’s group for ending homelessness.
“The current system of asking survivors to provide evidence of their vulnerability is incredibly insensitive and traumatic, and often impossible to do.”
MPs have heard “horrifying stories” of victims being asked to return home to gather evidence of their abuse, Coyle added.
One in five of Crisis’ female members have been made homeless by domestic abuse.
Earlier this month, Theresa May announced plans to ensure all abuse survivors have access to support in emergency refuges – but campaigners are calling for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be extended to guarantee victims a more permanent home.
Rebecca Pritchard, director of services at Crisis, said: “It’s simply not good enough that survivors are being forced to sleep rough or are ending up stuck in temporary accommodation unable to move on with their lives because they’re being refused help to find a safe settled home.”
The report comes on the same day the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman called on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council to pay a domestic abuse victim £500 in compensation after it refused to accept a homelessness application from her and her children.
A government spokesperson said: “We recently announced that for the first time ever, councils will be legally required to provide vital support in secure accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire pledged over £90 million for this.
“This will end the variation in support and ensure that all families are able to recover and overcome their experiences.”
HuffPost UK has also contacted Oadby and Wigston Borough Council for a response.