Victims of domestic violence judged to be at risk are now being rehoused much quicker thanks to being given higher priority for social housing.
Last year Bristol City Council took the decision to move survivors who are at high risk into the top band of the housing register for an initial three months.
The change was agreed by the Mayor at Cabinet in March 2017 in response to representation from campaigning groups and survivors of domestic violence and abuse (DVA).
In the first year, 56 victims of DVA have been prioritised for rehousing as a result of the policy change*. Of these, 27 households have been rehoused already with others currently bidding on Homechoice. Two thirds of households prioritised include dependent children.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said: “This new approach has been in place for a year now and I am delighted to see that we are reducing the length of time it takes to rehouse high risk victims, enabling them to make a quicker transition into new accommodation and start the process of rebuilding their lives.
“We do not want to see anyone living in fear, and our priority is to make sure the most vulnerable in the city are protected from harm.
“We recognise how important it is to have a home that you feel safe and secure in, and we are continuing to work hard with our partners to make sure this is a reality for everyone.”
There is a four band system to allocate housing, with Band One being the highest priority households.
Survivors of DVA are placed in Band Two, but now in cases where risks cannot be reduced and where the severity of the risk posed by an abuser is confirmed by a relevant partner agency, victims will be placed in Band One. These decisions will be made following a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC).
Alongside this there is also priority move on status for vulnerable victims accommodated and referred by Nextlink or other specialist providers.
Victims who need to flee domestic abuse were already prioritised by the city council but last year’s decision gave greater weighting to victims who are at particular risk and those who need to move on from refuge more quickly in order to rebuild their lives.
Scarlett, 41 (name has been changed to protect identity).
“I met my partner through work and during the two and a half years we were together he became more and more physically violent and emotionally abusive towards me. He controlled my friendship groups, if I saw my family and where and when I went somewhere. He would put me down and I was very frightened all the time. It got to the point that he made me feel so low and worthless and I had no control over my own life, that I tried to take my own life. This is when I sought help and got support from Next Link.
“I came into safe house and was amazed at how supportive the team were. They helped me get back on my feet, listening to my feelings and the impact of what he had done to me. They helped me with my practical needs, support for my children and referred me for counselling. With their support I quickly began to piece my life back together and built up my confidence again. I returned to work and started to return to a normal independent life again.
“I was very ready to move onto independent living, and wanted my family’s life to return to normal again as I felt emotionally ready and physically safe. If it wasn’t for priority move on I could still be in safe house, and although that intensive support is so important when you first flee, I was ready for the next step. If I hadn’t moved on it would have made me feel like I was stuck and that I would never move on. Safe house was amazing but it does limit your life. You can’t have friends and family over, and neither can your children. It is also a reminder of what has happened to you and I was ready to be free of this and move on.
“When you move out you still get support to settle into your new area, which is very reassuring and is helping me to build on what I have achieved, but I’m so glad that I am now living a free independent life and am excited for my future.”
*This figures breaks down to 24 band 1 cases and 32 priority move on cases.