Kate Henderson reflects on her role as the housing representative for the cross-disciplinary Strategic Reference Group on Perpetrators. Convened by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the group aims to develop leadership on effective national responses to perpetrators of domestic abuse, tackling the issue at its root.
Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own home. Sadly, domestic abuse occurs in homes up and down the country, and therefore we need to ensure the social housing sector is part of the solution. I’m now joining the conversation from a different angle: holding perpetrators to account and preventing harm. This builds on work already underway with our National Domestic Abuse Group and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance.
In July 2021, I became a member of the first ever England and Wales Strategic Reference Group on Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse. Led by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, a range of statutory and voluntary sector leaders including health, children’s social care and probation have come together in this group to ensure the onus is no longer simply on victim-survivors to keep themselves safe but on services to protect them and on perpetrators to change.
At the National Housing Federation, we recognise the important role housing plays in tackling domestic abuse. Secure and long term accommodation are essential for a survivor’s safety and recovery. Early and effective interventions have the potential to reduce the risk of homelessness of both the victim-survivor and the perpetrator if effective support and multiagency coordination is available.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to join this important group of diverse public agencies and specialist organisations who are committed to changing the national conversation regarding domestic abuse. The last year has seen unprecedented challenges for domestic abuse victim-survivors but also holds possibility for momentous change. This group could not have been convened at a more timely moment, as we’re seeing a huge increase in public awareness of violence against women and the societal and systemic changes needed to address it. Important policy opportunities coming up are a chance to embed these changes we all want to see across our society and turn the tide on domestic abuse.
The government has committed to a focus on perpetrators within the Domestic Abuse Strategy, due later this year as part of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Housing solutions, within a multiagency context, should inform this strategy. Preventing the homelessness of perpetrators can achieve safety and freedom for victim-survivors. When it’s safe to do so and it is the express wish of the victim, rehousing perpetrators means victim-survivors and their families can stay safe in their own homes and remain close to their support networks.
Other influencing opportunities include the upcoming refresh of the National Statement for Expectations for Violence Against Women and Girls and the Social Housing White Paper. Innovative models and partnership working are being piloted across housing and homelessness teams. It’s crucial we make sure that good practice informs the recommendations we put to the government on how we can create change.
Being part of the Strategic Reference Group on Perpetrators provides the opportunity to highlight the work that is already happening in the social housing sector – through the work of expert groups like the National Domestic Abuse Group and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance - and to feed into policy. You can read more about the group and a summary of our first meeting.
This group’s next discussion, taking place in the New Year, will tackle the question of why some perpetrators get away with offending time and time again. I am keen to gather our members’ views and to highlight good practice in the social housing sector to feed into this discussion and the work of the group. Do you have case studies of effective responses to domestic abuse within your housing association, relating to rehousing perpetrators? Where do you see opportunities for collaboration with other agencies to hold perpetrators to account? To submit your views please contact Evelyn Williams by Friday 7 January.
Housing associations are committed to playing an important role in turning the tide on domestic abuse and it’s a privilege to represent the NHF and sector on the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s group.