We need a holistic approach to tackling domestic abuse, that’s why we became Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) accredited. We were one of the first housing associations to receive accreditation from DAHA, here’s a brief idea of why we sought accreditation, and what the process was like. But most importantly to encourage you to become accredited too.
Aidan McCarthy is Housing Inclusion Manager at Women’s Pioneer Housing
7 February 2019
Women’s Pioneer Housing have been offering housing to women in west London since 1920, when we were founded by members of the suffragette movement to help single women unable to find homes of their own.
In early 2016, I attended a meeting at Kensington Town Hall, at which Gudrun “Guddy” Burnet – DAHA co-founder and all-round force of nature – gave a presentation on DAHA, social housing, and domestic abuse. Had you asked us prior to that meeting how well we as an organisation responded to domestic abuse, I think we both would have said ‘room for improvement, but we’re doing well’. Guddy’s presentation, full of passion and inspiration, made us re-think that. It made us reflect that, as a provider of women-only housing, we had to offer the best possible response to an issue that so disproportionately affects women. Domestic abuse was not something that had enough recognition within our organisation, and we were not doing enough to encourage our tenants to see us as a means of finding help and support.
We needed to make the case to senior management and we did this in two ways:
- It spoke to our social mission. We knew this was something that we should be doing. We are a women’s organisation, and we should be following best practice when looking at issues as clearly gendered as domestic abuse. Our ethos is pro-women and we felt that the DAHA process was a good fit with what our founders would have wanted.
- We needed to be proactive in identifying domestic abuse. From a more pragmatic point of view, it made sense to be pro-active in identifying domestic abuse, to address issues where possible before crisis point. We also wanted to reassure tenants that our organisation is open and welcoming to survivors. The earlier we can offer help, support and guidance, the more likely we are to be able to work with our tenants to manage and sustain their tenancies.
Having gained senior management and board support, we then welcomed Nicole Jacobs, another DAHA co-founder and chief executive of Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, to our offices in July 2016. Nicole met with frontline staff, read our policies and procedures, looked at case management, and identified 34 separate actions to work through in order to receive accreditation.
We threw ourselves into the actions, with input from every part of our organisation, from rewriting policies, drafting procedures, arranging training for all staff, to publicising our support to tenants and improving our case management.
We were thrilled when Nicole visited us again, nine very busy months later, and was able to award us with DAHA accreditation. This meant we could confidently say we were following best practice.
For other providers thinking of seeking accreditation, the crucial step is ensuring support from as high up within your organisation as possible. To be successful, all departments and teams will need to play a part, so a clear lead at senior management or executive level helps enormously to drive that.
The process was hugely positive - it has helped us to embed a holistic approach to dealing with domestic abuse.
We all know now that tackling domestic abuse is everyone’s responsibility and I encourage you all to become accredited. Good luck!