Why housing providers are integral to tackling domestic abuse

21 January 2014

Ahead of CIH Cymru’s Safer communities event next month, conference speaker Gudrun Burnet, Community Safety Manager at Peabody, gives readers some hard facts about domestic abuse, and shares the Peabody approach to working with those affected.

The Ending Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse (Wales) Bill is progressing through the legislative process and I am pleased to see that it places housing providers right at the heart of tackling domestic abuse. I believe Westminster could learn a lot from this new Welsh approach to dealing with the issue.

Domestic abuse is a social problem that affects people from all backgrounds and both Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration and Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government and Government Business, are leading the way in highlighting the role of landlords in identifying and responding to it. CIH Cymru’s upcoming Safer communities event, supported by Welsh Government, provides a great opportunity to share good practice and disseminate information and updates; raising awareness of the issue and improving responses for both individuals affected and their children.

I have been fortunate enough to work for both Refuge and Peabody in England, and am also a qualified Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA). Numerous people affected by domestic abuse have told me directly over the years that housing is their top priority, an issue that will fundamentally affect the options available to them, especially in legal terms. Furthermore, housing professionals, including caretakers, neighbourhood managers, housing officers and repair staff are in an ideal place to identify those at risk of domestic abuse and their children, and respond to them with appropriate support and information. However housing professionals are not necessarily confident to do so, they can be ill-equipped, lacking in the necessary skills and knowledge of referral pathways to offer to those at risk.

1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

When I started working at Peabody five years ago there were examples of inappropriate responses to domestic abuse; some cases were wrongly being reported and responded to as noise nuisance issues, and domestic abuse awareness training was patchy across the organisation. The facts are that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and two women are killed each week in England and Wales by a current or former partner. A housing officer or member of the repair team may be the first person to whom a tenant affected by domestic abuse discloses their situation.

During the Safer communities event I will share Peabody’s strategic journey in improving our response to domestic abuse; the training we have implemented, changes to our policies and procedures, how we raise awareness and how we introduced DASH – the “Domestic Abuse, Stalking and ‘Honour’-based violence”– Risk identification Checklist (RIC) that is now completed with every individual that discloses domestic abuse to us. My workshop will cover the practical skills and tools that landlords can use and will provide an opportunity to role-play completing a DASH form.

It is my firm belief that the DASH risk assessment tool should be routinely completed by trained housing professionals, and that such improvements to service delivery can have a far reaching impact for individuals affected by domestic abuse. Landlords and homelessness services must be seen as crucial partners in developing good practice when responding to individuals and families affected by domestic abuse in our communities. Domestic abuse impacts on the lives of a large number of people in Wales, and the right response from the professionals they contact will save lives. That’s a fact worth shouting about.

Gudrun Burnet
@GudrunBurnet