Tory u-turn on domestic violence housing rights

Labour councillors last night successfully defeated a Conservative plan to force domestic violence victims to declare themselves homeless before they can be re-housed by stripping them of their Band 1 priority status on the housing waiting list and pushing them to the back of the queue. The plan was first uncovered in an article by the Barnet Press.

The Tory plan reduced the priority of those experiencing domestic violence to Band 2 or 3 on the housing waiting list making it extremely unlikely that domestic violence victims would be placed in permanent housing.

At last night's Housing Committee the Tories were forced into a dramatic u-turn in response to significant public pressure and Labour’s campaign, including a petition of over 600 signatures launched by Labour councillor, Reema Patel.

In speaking to the committee, Cllr Patel said the plan forced domestic violence victims to the back of the queue – behind those who worked for free for 64 hours a month – and she raised concerns about reducing the status of those threatened with violence compared with those experiencing violence.

Cllr Reema Patel said: "We must understand the complexity of domestic violence and the importance of keeping housing options open for victims.  Anyone who is threatened with violence should be a priority for the council, we shouldn’t be basing housing decisions on a subjective assessment of the severity of the violence.

"We recognise the need to ensure that victims of domestic violence do not remain in an abusive home where they are in danger, but they should not be penalised because there is a shortage of homes. We welcome the fact that the committee recognised that the proposed policy may cause more harm than good."

 "I would like to thank everyone who supported our campaign to stop this plan, including Solace Women’s Aid, housing lawyer Giles Peaker, Labour’s parliamentary candidates in Barnet - Sarah Sackman, Andrew Dismore and Amy Trevethan, and every member of the public who signed my petition."

 Labour’s Housing Spokesperson, Cllr Ross Houston said: "I’m glad we could finally reach agreement on the principle of protecting the housing rights of domestic violence victims and would particularly like to thank Cllrs Reema Patel and Kath McGuirk for speaking so passionately to the committee on this issue.

"I now call on Cllr Davey to withdraw his motion to Full Council which promotes the plan to strip domestic violence victims of their priority status on the housing waiting list."

The Council will now re-draft the housing allocations scheme to retain Band 1 priority for domestic violence victims. If the wording is not agreed by Labour councillors the scheme will be brought back to the Housing Committee in February.

Notes:

1. For more details of Labour’s campaign to protect the housing rights of domestic violence victims see:

 http://betterbarnet.nationbuilder.com/domestic_violence_campaign_key_points_for_the_council_s_consultation_on_changes_to_housing_allocations_policy

http://betterbarnet.nationbuilder.com/barnet_labour_call_on_council_leader_to_meet_domestic_violence_organisations

http://betterbarnet.nationbuilder.com/campaign_to_stop_domestic_violence_victims_being_stripped_of_housing_rights

2. Details of last night's Housing Committee:

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=699&MId=7936&Ver=4

For more information contact:

Cllr Ross Houston: cllr.r.houston@barnet.gov.uk

Cllr Reema Patel: cllr.r.patel@barnet.gov.uk

To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568

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