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Focus on: Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and accommodation-based support for survivors

Posted on 01/10/21 in Housing Matters

Focus on: Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and accommodation-based support for survivors

Part 4 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 places a new general duty on English local authorities to plan and provide accommodation-based support for survivors of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation.

Planning accommodation-based support

Under these new provisions from 1 October 2021 local authorities must:

  • appoint a multi-agency domestic abuse local partnership board to be consulted when performing certain functions
  • assess the need for accommodation-based domestic abuse support of survivors and their children in their area, including the need of those coming from outside the area
  • develop and publish a strategy, by 5 January 2022, for the provision of support
  • give effect to the strategy by commissioning and de-commissioning services
  • monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy and report back to central government and to the Domestic Abuse Commissioner

Local housing authorities must co-operate with out-of-area authorities exercising their domestic abuse functions. They must work with local public bodies that have a duty to refer survivors they come in contact with who may be homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The duty under Part 4 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 is separate from the housing allocations and homelessness duties under Parts 6 and 7 of the Housing Act 1996. It does not create individually enforceable rights, but it should lead to an improved provision of safe and suitable accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse.

Accommodation relevant to the assessment of needs

Accommodation-based domestic abuse support is defined as support provided by a local housing authority, a social landlord, or a specialist domestic abuse organisation to victims of domestic abuse within:

  • sanctuary schemes
  • refuge accommodation
  • specialist safe accommodation
  • dispersed accommodation
  • second stage accommodation
  • any accommodation designated as domestic abuse emergency accommodation

Bed and breakfast accommodation is not safe accommodation and is specifically excluded by regulations.

Sanctuary schemes allow for increased security measures to help a person at risk of domestic abuse to remain in their home. The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 and the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 are also amended from 1 October 2021 to provide for a new exception to the 'bedroom tax' for claimants in the social rented sector if the property has been adapted under a sanctuary scheme. 

Domestic abuse strategies

Local housing authorities must have regard to the accompanying statutory guidance when exercising their functions. Delivery of support to victims of domestic abuse in domestic abuse safe accommodation services provides more detail on the features of domestic abuse and what local authorities should consider when framing their strategies and commissioning their services. These include:

  • violence against women and girls
  • modern slavery
  • community safety
  • victims of crime
  • housing provision
  • homelessness reduction
  • safeguarding issues
  • supporting families
  • sanctuary schemes

When preparing their domestic abuse strategies, local authorities must review and update previous strategies in case the need for accommodation provided to survivors and their children has changed.

Child victims of domestic abuse

The needs of child victims of domestic abuse are at the heart of many changes introduced by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and local authorities must specifically consider and address their needs.

All children under 18 who are related to, or under the parental responsibility of either the survivor or the perpetrator are explicitly recognised as victims if they see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse.

One of the key functions of the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner is to encourage good practice in the identification of children affected by domestic abuse and the provision of protection and support for them.

Statutory guidance

Statutory guidance on Part 4 duties: Delivery of Support to Victims of Domestic Abuse, including Children, in Domestic Abuse Safe Accommodation Services

Legislation

Domestic Abuse Act 2021

Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (Commencement No. 2) Regulations 2021/1038

Domestic Abuse Support (Local Authority Strategies and Annual Reports) Regulations 2021/990

Domestic Abuse Support (Relevant Accommodation and Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Sanctuary Schemes) (Amendment) Regulations 2021/991