Published On: 22nd September 2022
Image: Nicobobinus – licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Tonight sees the launch of our new report and campaign around the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ by local authorities of housing support for domestic abuse survivors.

Housing is one of the major barriers facing women and girls fleeing abuse. Most domestic abuse survivors have the legal right to access emergency housing and longer-term safe and secure accommodation.

Yet systemic ‘gatekeeping’ (the placing of bureaucratic or other obstacles in the way of those seeking statutory support) across local councils means many survivors are unable to access the help they so desperately need. 

Our report, authored by PILC’s Isabella Mulholland, is based on original research, including casework and litigation undertaken by the law centre over the past three years, as well as witness testimonies from survivors and frontline domestic violence advocates across all thirty-two London boroughs.

PILC has written a legal submission to Simon Clark MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Levelling Up, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, highlighting the findings of the research.

The letter calls on the Secretary of State and the Mayor to commission an independent investigation into local authorities’ widespread failure to provide housing support to domestic abuse survivors.

As our research shows, the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for victims of domestic abuse is placing survivors at risk of further abuse and retraumatisation.

Key findings from our report include the following:

  • The ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for domestic abuse survivors is a systemic issue across London local authorities
  • ‘Gatekeeping’ by councils takes a variety of forms, including: long (and sometimes unlawful) delays in making decisions around housing for survivors; unsuitable offers of temporary and long-term accommodation; the failure to provide emergency accommodation to survivors and their children; the imposition of unlawfully high evidence thresholds before support is provided; failure to apply the statutory definition of domestic abuse; the application of value judgements by housing officers; survivors being wrongly instructed to stay in or leave their borough; and the refusal of support until there is a threat of legal action
  • Council ‘gatekeeping’ is having a serious impact on survivors, with some being forced to remain in properties where they are at risk or having no option but to return to the perpetrator of domestic abuse
  • ‘Gatekeeping’ across London local authorities has worsened over the last decade as a consequence of austerity and a chronic shortage of social housing

The full report can be downloaded here.