Refuges for women escaping violent and abusive partners are ‘oversubscribed’ across the county and have been ‘made worse’ by the coronavirus lockdown.
Gedling Borough Council has set up a domestic abuse and accommodation working group and presented its findings at an overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, July 4.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 places a legal duty on local authorities to deliver support to survivors of domestic abuse living in accommodation based services.
It says eligible homeless victims of domestic violence automatically have a ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance.
The average cost of a homeless application to the authority is £5,000.
The local authority said it can be higher if there are three or more children as the cost for bed and breakfast accommodation can be in excess of £120 per night.
Gedling Borough Council said it has a responsibility to support victims and their family’s access accommodation and that failure to provide this assistance may result in “victims returning to unsuitable or unsafe accommodation or become homeless.”
Refuge accommodation, if available and suitable, is the preferred option for victims and families as it enables assessment and tailored packages to meet their specific needs.
The council says there is currently no refuge provision located in Gedling but places are available for its residents across the county and UK.
The report states: “Every refuge is oversubscribed and this has been made worse by the increase in cases due to lockdown and the closure of some refuges due to Covid restrictions.
“Refuges do not keep waiting lists, vacancies are filled by whoever is in need when the vacancy occurs.
“If no places are available it may result in victims returning home or moving in with relatives.
“Refuge provides much more than bed space, offering both support and advice which will prepare survivors to move forward with their lives.
“Move on accommodation is increasingly difficult to find and families can be left in refuge or temporary accommodation longer than is necessary.”
Juno Women’s Aid, a charity helping victims of domestic abuse, said there has been a 58 per cent increase in calls to the helpline between January 2020 to December 2020 compared with the previous year.
At any one time, Juno said it can be supporting 500 to 600 women and children in Nottingham City and South Nottinghamshire.
The council said one of the schemes which is working is The Sanctuary Scheme.
This supports survivors of domestic abuse to continue to live in their own homes following actual and threatened abuse from a partner or ex-partner not living at their address.
The scheme pays for items such as replacement door locks, window locks, external lighting and a replacement door when damaged by the perpetrator.
The scheme aims to offer an alternative to temporary accommodation and is “a significant cost saving to the authority.”
In 2020-2021, the total spend was just under £10,000 with 14 households benefiting. There were a further six properties who benefited from security improvements installed by their housing provider.
The council report concludes: “The provision of refuge places for victims and their families exceeds the refuge accommodation that is currently available and Gedling Borough should work with the county council to ensure there is sufficient safe and supported accommodation for victims and families who are leaving abusive relationships.
“The portfolio holders with responsibility for public protection and housing continue to monitor the need for refuge provision with a view to providing an adequate level of funding for delivering dispersed refuge and ‘move on’ accessible accommodation in the borough.”