Victims' Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC explains why she, and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs, are calling for Ministers to act
As a result of the COVID19 lockdown, we are seeing a significant reduction in the availability of refuge spaces for victims fleeing domestic violence. Women’s Aid report there are around half the available bed spaces than there usually are at any one time.
This is likely to reduce still further as we see ‘bed blocking’, whereby Local Authorities are unable to provide move-on accommodation when a stay in a refuge is no longer required by the victim and their family.
Today (1 May), Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and I have written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government calling for urgent government action.
On 9 April, we wrote to Chief Executives of major hotel chains, calling on them to provide victims and their families with a hotel room in a publicly undisclosed place, free of charge. The response was positive and other providers of accommodation, such as universities, have also stepped forward.
However, despite the significant discounts being offered by hotels, this is not completely without cost. We want the Government to underwrite the cost of this option where necessary.
We recognise refuges remain the best place for victims and their families to go when they need to flee their homes. It is so important that when alternative accommodation is necessary, it is safe and victims are still supported by the third sector throughout.
We understand that the Welsh Government are already working with the hotel sector in Wales to support this initiate and encourage the UK Government to do the same.
We are also hearing some Local Authorities are simply not issuing any new tenancies during this period due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is not appropriate where someone requires a new property due to domestic abuse, and it risks silting up the flow of individuals in and out of refuge.
Therefore, we are also asking the government to issue guidance to Local Authorities, making it clear that providing move-on accommodation for victims of domestic abuse during this time is a priority.