Domestic abuse is the “main cause” of women becoming homeless, according to a new report by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid.
With not all of the cash in the £50 million Ending Homelessness Together action plan allocated, the Scottish Government is urged to put some of it into a new “national domestic abuse and social housing innovation fund” to help those affected.
Such a move could help councils and housing associations to “develop effective domestic abuse strategies”, the report said.
In addition to this, the report called on the Scottish Government to provide additional money to councils, allowing them to “provide enough high quality temporary accommodation and support services to meet the needs of women and children”.
It suggests councils and housing associations establish referral systems with law centres and experts in family law and domestic abuse “in order to help victim-survivors get the legal advice and assistance they need to make informed decisions”.
The report recommends all staff working in homeless services and relevant support services should receive specialist training on domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls.
More than a fifth (22%) of females making a homeless application cite violence or an abusive dispute in their households as the reason for needing help, compared with 5% of cases when the main applicant is male.
But the report said: “The extent of women’s and children’s homelessness because of domestic abuse is unknown.
“The official homeless statistics are likely to significantly underestimate the scale of the problem as women may not disclose that they are experiencing domestic abuse when making a homeless application.”
Callum Chomczuk, national director of CIH Scotland, said: “The housing sector, unfortunately, has been too slow to improve our approach to domestic abuse.
“Too many social landlords still do not have a policy which recognises domestic abuse and victims are at times made homeless by the services that are meant to help them- despite domestic abuse remaining the principal case of women’s homelessness.”
Jo Ozga, policy officer at Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “The report recommends a combination of systemic change, legislation and actions to prevent homelessness for victim-survivors of domestic abuse that will make a fundamental difference to improving not only the housing outcomes for women and children in Scotland but also their health and wellbeing.”
Housing minister Kevin Stewart welcomed the report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government, saying it “marks a huge step in recognising and addressing the impact domestic abuse has on women’s homelessness”.
He added: “It is shocking that people are at risk of harm from those they live with, yet we know domestic abuse is the most common reason for women making a homelessness application and we must support them.
“Crucially, measures in the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill provide the police and courts with new powers to protect people experiencing domestic abuse and give social landlords greater control over ending or transferring tenancies to keep women and children safe.
“The Scottish Government looks forward to working together with social housing providers to implement the report’s findings and ensuring victims of domestic abuse have a safe and secure place to live, where they can access the support they need.”