Perpetrators, rather than victims, of domestic abuse should be rehoused, a women’s charity in Scotland has said.
In new guidelines, Scottish Women’s Aid said that social landlords must take a “victim-centered” approach to domestic violence and advised landlords to help transfer tenancies to victims, rather than referring them to homelessness services.
The guidelines, entitled Domestic abuse: a good practice guide for social landlords, also suggest that social landlords should include a section in tenancy agreements stating that domestic abuse will be treated as a breach of tenancy that could lead to eviction.
However, landlords must ensure that perpetrators are adequately housed, as a victim will not be safe “if the perpetrator is left to wander the street”, the guidelines state.
According to Scottish Women’s Aid, domestic abuse is the number-one cause of homelessness for women and children in Scotland.
Jo Ozga, policy worker at the charity, said: “Often women are told that their only housing option when they are separating from an abusive partner is to make a homeless application. Being forced to become homeless adds to the trauma of domestic abuse and comes at a huge emotional and financial cost.
“This new guidance will be available to every social landlord and every local authority in Scotland, meaning the potential is there to change the future for thousands of women and children.”
Scottish Women’s Aid partnered with Shelter Scotland, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to produce the guide.
Sally Thomas, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: “No woman or child should ever become homeless fleeing domestic abuse. This guidance is a significant step forward in ensuring that is the case and I urge all senior staff across our sector to implement it in its entirety throughout their organisations.”
Callum Chomczuk, national director of CIH Scotland, said: “Too many housing organisations do not have a policy which recognises domestic abuse. This means that victims are, at times, made homeless by the services that are meant to help them.”
The guidance includes good practice examples, checklists for best practice in responding to domestic abuse and templates for domestic abuse policies.