Fleeing domestic abuse whilst having multiple disadvantages: How we can improve housing options

Fulfilling Lives South East has collaborated with the University of Brighton to conduct research on what good housing could look like for women with multiple complex needs who are fleeing domestic abuse. The work draws together interviews with Fulfilling Lives’ workers and existing academic research to review the issue originally highlighted in Fulfilling Lives South East’s Manifesto for Change

The problem with domestic abuse and housing options

Domestic abuse does not occur in isolation from other issues. The research finds clear increases in likelihood of mental health issues, substance misuse and homelessness for people who experience domestic abuse. Despite this connection with multiple needs, services are not always able to provide suitable housing options for people in this group who are fleeing domestic abuse.

61% of local authorities do not have a homeless service specifically for women with multiple and complex needs (original source: ‘mapping the maze’ research report).

Managing complex risk, active addictions and trauma presentations often requires specialist knowledge and support. This is a challenge for services which may not be financed or equipt to provide the physical space or staffing required to support MCN women to stay safe. The result can be limited, inflexible offers of housing which can lead to rejection, eviction, or the choice to stay with an abusive partner to avoid having to engage with the system. Pair this with a limited housing stock offer in the South East, and the limitations of housing options are only exasperated for these women.

What can help women in this situation?

The research indicated that the following approaches could be beneficial in addressing the issues:

INDIVIDUAL LEVELSERVICE LEVELNATIONAL LEVEL

Advocacy & trauma-informed support


Workers help individuals to get the best from the system, challenge stigma and support the emotional wellbeing

Flexible policies which acknowledge complexity


Identify MCN women through referrals and plan for specific needs. Provide as much flexibility as possible.

Funding for housing options


funding to provide staffing levels and spaces for women with complex needs to feel safe and maintain tenancies

Empower women with MCN

Use information and support for MCN women to make informed decisions about their support

Trauma Informed Workforces

Identify MCN women through referrals and plan for specific needs. Provide as much flexibility as possible.

Campaigning


Providing evidence of the need for specialist housing options and sharing best practice with national decision makers

The research also acknowledged that funding limitations into new housing approaches for women fleeing domestic abuse contributed to the restricted offer available and in the current context, the report encourages us to explore enhancing and improving existing services and systems to effect positive change.

What next?

Whilst academic research on the impact of domestic abuse was prevalent, finding research on domestic abuse and multiple needs was more challenging. This highlighted the need for further research in this area, both in terms of academic contributions and pilot projects which seek to improve outcomes in this area. Our student researcher concludes:

Working with Fulfilling Lives helped me understand the work that goes behind organisations that offer services for communities. The concepts of multiple complex needs and trauma informed responses really resonated with me, as I believe they can be applied to any services that provide help and support for communities.’ – Student Researcher

If you are interested in working with us in this area, please contact Rebecca at rebecca.rieley@sefulfillinglives.org.uk. The full report is out now and available to download here:

Author – Kerry Dowding

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