Barnet's Labour councillors are calling for Conservative Barnet Council to drop plans to force victims of domestic violence to declare themselves homeless in order to be re-housed away from their abusers. The issued was first raised by the Barnet Press in last week's local paper. The council's plan will effectively strip domestic violence victims of their right to be prioritised for permanent re-housing in the top band on the housing register, and will also strip them of any permanent tenancy and succession rights if they are already in council accommodation.
Labour councillors believe this unfairly rewards the perpetrators of violence who could be allowed to remain in the family home while their victims are forced to make themselves homeless to escape their abusers. Housing law currently already protects victims of domestic violence who need to leave the family home by making it a duty for the council to re-house them in emergency or temporary accommodation, so there is no need to write this into the housing allocations policy.
The council’s planned change will mean those placed in emergency or temporary accommodation will be removed from or not placed in the top priority band for re-housing and instead will be placed in Band 2 or 3, making the likelihood they will be offered a permanent home slim.
The draft amendment to the housing allocations policy states that "Customers who approach the Council for urgent re-housing because they are in immediate risk of harm due to violence will be encouraged to apply through the Part 7 homelessness route and will not be placed in band 1. Any customer considered to be homeless under S166A (3) (a) will be placed in band 2 or 3."
Housing campaigners have questioned the motive behind the council’s proposal, believing it is a move to reduce the number of people eligible for social housing.
The council’s plan has also been criticised by Solace Women’s Aid who pointed out that "It just does not make sense to create additional barriers to families in this situation."
Coppetts Labour councillor, Reema Patel, has started a petition to stop the Barnet Tories from implementing this plan. To join her campaign you can sign the petition here.
Labour councillors are also calling for victims of domestic violence to be able to retain the terms of any tenancy agreement they have if they have to leave the family home because of any violence.
Barnet Council are consulting on this issue as part of changes they are proposing to make to the housing allocations policy, but have not even undertaken a proper Equality Impact Assessment to check how the policy would affect victims of domestic violence. You can respond to the public consultation here.
Cllr Reema Patel said: "Forcing the victims of domestic violence to make themselves homeless and stripping them of their tenancy and right to be considered a priority for permanent housing is a cruel policy that needs to be stopped. We are supposed to protect the victims of violence and crime, not the perpetrators. I would like to encourage as many people as possible to sign the petition to get the Tories to see sense and stop this change to housing policy.
"The council should withdraw these proposals and undertake a proper impact assessment to make sure the new allocations proposals properly accommodates survivors of domestic violence."