Housing crisis hampering efforts of domestic violence victims to leave abusive homes

Housing crisis hampering efforts of domestic violence victims to leave abusive homes

Sixty-two women are currently availing of the protocol in which they do not get means-tested for Rent Supplement if they and their children are seeking to leave an abusive home.

The housing crisis may be impacting the number of people who can avail of a protocol designed to protect women and children from abuse in the home, according to Safe Ireland.

Latest figures show that 62 women are currently availing of the protocol, agreed last August between Tusla and the Department of Social Protection, in which they do not get means-tested for Rent Supplement if they and their children are seeking to leave an abusive home.

Earlier this week the latest annual report from Women's Aid showed it received 24,893 disclosures of abuse against women and another 5,948 disclosures of child abuse in the context of domestic violence in 2020, with the number of overall disclosures rising 43% compared with those in 2019.

Last August, the Department of Social Protection agreed a protocol with Tusla on a pilot basis involving a referral process through Safe Ireland and other service providers to make Rent Supplement more easily accessible to victims of domestic violence on a pilot basis. 

The aim is to ensure that victims of domestic violence are not prevented from leaving their home because of financial or accommodation difficulties and the Department said it will remain in place until the end of this year at which time it will be reviewed.

"Under the protocol, after six months of support, it is expected that the customer will, if eligible, be able to migrate to HAP or other social housing supports supported by their local authority," a departmental spokesperson said. "The arrangements in this protocol are additional and complementary to, and not a substitution for, the range of other supports already in place for victims of domestic violence.

"A total of 46 victims of domestic violence availed of support under this protocol in 2020. There are currently 62 cases in payment."

Safe Ireland Consultant and Communications Officer, Edel Hackett, said the protocol was a vital assistance for those who avail of it and an option for others.

However, she said that it did not suit everyone and that for some, securing accommodation was made difficult because of the ongoing housing crisis.

"One of the difficulties is the housing crisis," she said. "It is difficult to secure housing at a level people can afford even with Rent Supplement.

"The fact it's not means-tested is fantastic. The fact [the number of people using it] has increased shows it is being picked up and used but it's really about having choice for survivors.

"It's just the fact that it is there and available and a choice but one of the big difficulties is the lack of housing. We have a housing crisis."

Ms Hackett also said that the journey for many people leaving an abusive household was not straightforward, with some going back to the home, and others staying with family or friends or taking up alternative options.

Ms Hackett said this process was "not linear".

"It is complicated, and it's, for want of a better word, a messy journey from entrapment to safety."

She said in some cases that journey can take up to 20 years.

Earlier this month Airbnb extended its partnership with Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid to provide free emergency accommodation for domestic violence survivors across Ireland.

The initial partnership launched in June last year and has provided 2,000 nights of emergency accommodation to date.

Earlier this week, responding to the data contained in the Women's Aid report, Professor Louise Crowley of University College Cork said certain measures that have been introduced to provide assistance to those in vulnerable situations through the pandemic, such as the rent allowance protocol, should be mainstreamed.

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