Pan-Sussex Strategy for Domestic Abuse Accommodation and Support 2021-2024
Empowering victims/survivors to remain in their own homes through choices where safe to do so
There is a common concern amongst stakeholders and survivors, that the current domestic abuse accommodation and support landscape in Sussex prevents victims/survivors from making independent decisions and relies on the expectation of them fleeing their home. Provision should better reflect complexity of domestic abuse victim/survivor and perpetrator dynamics, including recognition of the protective factors in relationships and the barriers and difficulties in leaving perpetrators, as well as the cycles of re-victimisation and re-offending.
“Why should I move, give up my job, take my children away from family and friends, have no support network... Why should I be punished for what they have done to me?” – service provider client
Feedback highlighted that although many survivors choose or are required to leave their area to increase their safety, this should not be their only option. Where safe to do so, victims/survivors should be effectively supported if they choose to remain in their own homes and therefore the following measures may only be appropriate for cases that are not assessed as high risk:
- Rehousing perpetrators
- Perpetrator behavioural intervention
- Protection Orders
- Sanctuary Schemes and target hardening
- Whole family intervention
The measures should be delivered alongside wider educational and preventative work, such as the healthy relationships programmes in schools. The above options would minimise the impact on victims/survivors and increase perpetrator accountability, whilst ensuring safety planning is in place. They reduce the requirement to flee out of area which can impact employment and access to key services and existing social networks which facilitate support and recovery. Where the victim/survivor has children, these options would also provide stability in relation to their schooling.
While the measures do not remove the need for emergency accommodation, as mentioned in earlier sections of this Strategy, Sanctuary Schemes are an alternative form of safe accommodation for cases which are medium or standard risk. Measures include the provision of safety locks, security lighting, panic alarms and CCTV. Police can also provide other options, although this is often short-term compared to provision from Sanctuary Schemes. This police provision is also currently only available to victims/survivors at high risk, even though Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) and Safeguarding Practice Reviews (previously Serious Case Reviews) highlight that medium risk cases are often likely to escalate to more serious harm and tragic outcomes.
Although data was not easily obtained from case files, feedback from Housing Options teams suggested that Sanctuary Schemes are an effective intervention when implemented as part of a wider safety and support package. For example, they can be used alongside Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPOs) and Domestic Abuse Protection Notices (DAPNs), as introduced by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, strict bail conditions, and IDVA support. Nevertheless, there was some lack of awareness regarding this option amongst wider partners, which suggested further promotion of Sanctuary Schemes might be needed to improve accessibility. Some stakeholders also expressed confusion regarding which tenure types the scheme was available for.
There is inconsistency in the provision and promotion of Sanctuary Schemes across Sussex. The organisation Safe Partnership is commissioned by districts and boroughs to deliver Sanctuary Scheme measures across East Sussex. Brighton & Hove City Council and the majority of West Sussex County Council do not have formal Sanctuary Schemes in place. Brighton & Hove suggested a lack of awareness, and consequently uptake, led to the closure of their scheme. Other than Crawley Borough Council that has a Sanctuary Scheme in place through Crawley Homes, the districts and boroughs in West Sussex independently provide target hardening measures on a case-by-case basis.
- Victims/survivors should be able to remain in their home if they choose to, and it is safe to do so, by ensuring Sanctuary Schemes are available in each local authority area as part of a wider safety and support package.
- 28% were a family member of the victim
- 42% were a partner of or intimate with the victim
- 46% were an ex-partner of the victim
Although DLUHC Domestic Abuse Act New Burdens funding cannot be utilised for this purpose, stakeholders reinforced the importance of developing perpetrator initiatives. London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has adopted an approach which provides short-term housing for perpetrators, alongside an evidence-informed programme of behaviour change work. While at face value somewhat contentious, enforcing loss of tenancy and rehousing perpetrators reduces risk of harm and enables victims/survivors to remain in their homes. The availability of housing for perpetrators of domestic abuse was identified as a gap throughout Sussex. Combined with this, proactive work with perpetrators is fundamental in attempting to break the cycle of re-offending and improve outcomes for domestic abuse victims/survivors and their children. Sussex is already delivering interventions to perpetrators which could be promoted alongside greater perpetrator housing provision.
Perpetrator programmes in Sussex
- OSPCC and Sussex Police: High-Harm Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme
- Cranstoun: ‘Men and Masculinities’ 24 week rolling behavioural change
- Sussex local authorities will explore options for the re-housing of perpetrators and enforcement of loss of tenancies, alongside promoting domestic abuse perpetrator behavioural programmes.
Whole Family intervention is a more dynamic approach to tackling domestic abuse which reflects the complexity of victim/survivor and perpetrator relationships. It engages every member of the household, working together with victims/survivors and perpetrators, as well as any affected children, to tackle domestic abuse alongside any other needs. The West Sussex Connect SafeLives pilot is a key example of this provision in Sussex. Stakeholder feedback highlighted the benefits of this type of intervention, suggesting the need for increased awareness and availability throughout the county.
- Awareness and availability of Whole Family interventions should be increased in Sussex.
Where only an estimated 4% of domestic abuse results in a conviction, the availability of these alternative methods may increase confidence to report and improve outcomes for victims/survivors in feeling safe.