Every year in the UK, more than two million people experience domestic abuse. No two of these experiences are the same, and not all survivors want or need the same response to feel safe. For someone who has lived in fear, the journey back to a happy and independent life can be complex. A safe place to live is a vital step in that journey - but at the moment it is far too hard to come by.
To stop the cycle of abuse, we need housing models that offer long term support so that survivors can rebuild and recover fully, and feel like part of a supportive community. That’s why domestic abuse charity SafeLives and carer network Shared Lives Plus are working together to develop and test a new way of providing accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse. The pilot will run in three Shared Lives schemes in Shropshire, Lewisham and Buckinghamshire. If successful, the scheme will be rolled out nationally.
In Shared Lives schemes, an adult who needs support or a place to live moves in with or regularly visits an approved Shared Lives carer, after they have got to know each other and the local Shared Lives scheme has matched them for compatibility. Together, they share family and community life. With input from survivors, and SafeLives providing practical expertise, this model is being adapted to support domestic abuse survivors.
SafeLives data shows that more than half of victims of domestic abuse need support to stay safely in their own home or move to new accommodation. Of those who access refuge services, 87% eventually move onto continued temporary accommodation (Women’s Aid data). This leaves too many survivors in a precarious position, without the security and stability they need to feel safe.
Suzanne Jacob OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives, said:
"When it comes to housing, survivors have limited options – we believe everyone experiencing domestic abuse deserves better than this. We hope Shared Lives schemes will provide a further safe and secure environment for survivors to recover from the abuse, regain confidence and rebuild their lives.
‘Of course, the responsibility for domestic abuse always belongs with the perpetrator, who must be challenged and held to account. In an ideal world no one would have to leave their home because of domestic abuse, but it’s clear that we need to provide a range of safe and supportive options for those who do. This should be as well as, not instead of, existing options."
Alex Fox, Chief Executive of Shared Lives Plus, said:
"Shared Lives carers across the UK offer safe, supportive homes where people can build their confidence and independence. Shared Lives is already used by 14,000 people, but only a small number of people who have experienced domestic abuse.
We have seen how building healthy relationships and getting practical support from a carefully chosen and trained Shared Lives carer has enabled women fleeing domestic abuse to rebuild their lives at their own pace, with the support of a household who are with them for the long haul. We are very excited to be working with SafeLives to develop this model more widely, including for women with learning disabilities, mental ill health and other support needs who have experienced domestic abuse."
SafeLives is a UK wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Last year over 60,000 adults and more than 100,000 children received support from interventions pioneered by SafeLives and our partners.
No one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and together – we can make it stop. If you would like to read more about SafeLives’ work on housing for domestic abuse survivors and their families, please read our recent Spotlight on homelessness and domestic abuse.
Shared Lives Plus
We are the UK network for Shared Lives carers, Shared Lives schemes and Homeshare schemes. With over 5,000 Members UK-wide, we have a unique overview and voice which we use to support schemes and Shared Lives carers through policy, guidance, advice and legal support. We also work to diversify and establish new Shared Lives and Homeshare schemes. www.sharedlivesplus.org.uk
This project is made possible by a grant from the government’s Tampon Tax fund.