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Social Housing Speed Read – Government announces greater support for domestic violence victims

On the 15th February 2022, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced a new financial support package for victims of domestic violence.

It was announced that a fund of £125 million was to be made available to Councils across the UK in order to fund accommodation for victims of domestic violence, as well as a host of wider support services such as healthcare, immigration advice, and drug and alcohol support services. It is down to each Council to determine how and where to best spend their allocated  funds. The announcement follow the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act in 2021 which placed a legal duty on Councils to fund and support safe accommodation for victims of domestic violence for the first time.

Two new domestic violence consultations were also announced.

The first consultation is a review of the Local Connection Test. The Local Connection Test  gives priority to those applying for Social Housing when they have existing ties to the local community. The test has been widely criticised as it may debar  domestic violence victims from applying for housing in a new area where they may have no existing ties, leaving them in the same community as their abuser. The outcome of the review may result in the test not being applicable to  victims of domestic abuse, which may grant further opportunities to seek social housing further afield and have a new start. The consultation can be found here.

The second consultation is a review of the “joint and severally liable” principle of joint tenancies in domestic violence cases, as it is thought that joint tenancies may make the victim feel trapped in the tenancy and allow the abuser to threaten to terminate the joint tenancy and leave their victim homeless. Thus the review will consider how to overcome the ties of a joint tenancy in cases of domestic violence. This consultation will also consider the adequacy of the guidance currently available to social housing landlords to assist them to support victims effectively. The consultation can be found here.

Both of these consultations will call upon those with personal domestic violence experience, and those that work in a domestic violence support role and the housing sector and colleagues are encouraged to respond to the consultations. Both consultations will run until 10th May 2022.

For more information, the official Government announcement can be found here. For further guidance or advice on any matters relating to Social Housing, please contact Melanie Dirom or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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