Review date: December 2014
Effective Date: March 2015
Date of next review: March 2017
Approved: Assistant Director of Housing and Neighbourhoods
Author: Central Services Manager
Policy owned by: Head of Housing
Statute: Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, Family Law Act 1996, Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Children Act (1989) and (2004), Homelessness Act (2002), Sexual Offences Act (1956 & 2003), Forced Marriage (Civil Protections) Act 2007 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Human Rights Act 1998, Equality Act 2010, Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006
Regulatory framework: The Homes and Communities Agency expect Registered Social Landlords to: Adopt a strategic approach for responding to domestic abuse; Develop strategies for awareness raising and training; Work together with other agencies; Provide easily accessible information.
Good practice: Call to End Violence against Women and Girls – HM Gov (Home Office 2010), Government Guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children” Updated 2010
East Thames policies and procedures: ASB and Hate Crimes Policy and Procedure, Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Policy, Safeguarding Children Policy, Information Management Policy (includes Confidentiality, Consent and Data Protection), Priority Needs Policy, East Homes Tenure and Allocations Policy, Housing Review Panel Procedure, East Homes Sensitive Lettings Policy, East Homes Decants Policy, East Homes Relationship Breakdown Policy and Procedure
Equality Impact Assessment: A full EqIA has been carried out as part of this review.
1. Introduction Page No 2
2. Scope Page No 2
3. Policy Statement Page No 3
4. Monitoring Page No 5
5. Conditions and exceptions Page No 6
6. Policy Equality and Diversity statement Page No 6
7. Process map Page No 7
1. Options for support and action……………………………………………Page No 8
2. Helpline and useful links……………………………..……………………Page No 11
3. Guidance ……………………………..…………………………………….Page No 13
4. Definitions Page No 29
1. Introduction 1.1 Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of gender (including transgender), ethnicity, religion, class, age, sexuality, disability or lifestyle. However the vast majority of the victims of domestic abuse are women, teenagers and children. Women and girls are also considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of violence, and sexual abuse.
1.2 Domestic abuse is defined as:
Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members* regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
See Appendix 4 for further definitions.
1.3 Domestic abuse can also include the destruction of a partner’s property, their isolation from friends, family or other potential sources of support, threats to others including children, control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone as well as stalking.
1.4 It can also include violence inflicted on, or witnessed by, children. The adverse effects of living with domestic abuse for children must be recognised as a child protection issue. The effects can be linked to poor educational achievement, social exclusion and to juvenile crime, substance abuse, mental health problems and homelessness from running away.
1.5 It has been recognised that people who are physically disabled, have a learning disability or mental health support needs can be particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse and are less able to obtain the help that they may need to escape.
1.6 Domestic abuse is not generally a ‘one-off’ occurrence; it is most often frequent and persistent and is often underpinned by a pattern of abusive behaviour.
2. Scope 2.1 This policy applies to all staff working at East Thames, in particular:
Volunteers working in front line services as well as any staff member who is experiencing or involved in any domestic abuse situation or case
2.2 This policy applies to the tenants, shared owners and leaseholders of East Homes Group, and is not specifically designed to cover the East Living refuges as they are specific service providers, nor does it cover East Thames employees who will be provided with support and guidance by Human Resources and where requested their line Manager.
2.3 We will work with people who are experiencing domestic abuse for the first time, through to those who have suffered repeatedly. We will also consider the needs of the family and this includes perpetrators where appropriate.
3. Policy statement 3.1 East Thames is a housing provider and therefore our approach to domestic violence or abuse will be within the scope of our remit as a housing provider. Where possible, we will liaise with relevant agencies to facilitate additional support and resources to victims of domestic violence or abuse.
3.2 It is widely recognised that domestic abuse is widespread and traditionally under-reported. It can happen in any household, including same sex households. Incidents can also occur within a community location. We believe that no one should live in fear of domestic violence or abuse and we will take steps to advise, assist and support any person suffering from or threatened with domestic abuse or violence. 3.3 East Thames takes domestic abuse seriously and is committed to providing a sensitive and confidential response to anyone approaching us for assistance in cases of domestic abuse. For cases which meet the threshold of a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) or if we have safeguarding concerns, we will have a legal duty to share information with relevant agencies.
3.4 For many victims there will be repeated incidences of violence or abuse before support is sought. We believe that each incidence of domestic abuse, including the first, is an offence.
3.5 Where we find that people from BAME groups are being pressured into ‘Forced Marriage’ or become aware of ‘honour crimes being planned or committed, or when we identify that someone is at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or ritual abuse we will ensure that specialist agencies and statutory authorities are made aware.
3.7 Where we feel that specialist agencies are better placed to provide support, this information will be made available to the victim and/or their advocate and where appropriate support will be provided to assist the individual to obtain the help that they need.
3.8 We expect our staff to support our commitment to support people who are dealing with domestic violence or abuse.
3.9 For residents who are eligible to have their repairs carried out by East Homes, we will ensure that where those repairs are required to reduce the likelihood of further, abuse they are processed through our quickest routes.
3.10 For many victims, their first instinct is to move to a new property, in our experience this is not always the best option as it can take them away from their support networks and does not always meet their needs. We will work with the victim to look at a range of alternatives including:
Domestic Abuse Support Services and Advice Lines;
Sanctuary schemes and target hardening (where available);
Additional property security;
Accessing counselling and other health and well being services;
Support with injunctions.
The above options will only be considered following agreement from the victim.
3.11 Where the police have been notified of a crime resulting from domestic abuse, staff will take into account any advice or recommendations made.
3.12 If on carrying out the DASH Risk Identification Checklist (RIC), the person experiencing domestic abuse meets the local authority threshold for MARAC referrals, information will be shared between the agencies attending the MARAC meeting. These agencies will produce an action plan to prioritise the safety of individuals experiencing domestic abuse
3.13 Housing options – general needs tenants East Homes is a multi-tenure landlord and as such has different contractual responsibilities for different residents. For general needs residents there may be alternative housing options available including:
Moving through the Domestic Violence Reciprocal Programme with East London Partnership.
A move to the private rented sector.
A move through mutual exchange.
Additional priority or a direct offer move through East Homes Choice Based Lettings.
3.14 Each case where there is a request to move will be reviewed individually by the East Homes Housing Review Panel and decisions will be made based on evidence provided by residents and partner agencies such as the police, social services and domestic abuse support groups (see our Tenure and Allocations Policy for further details).
What we will do:
Take a victim centred approach that is risk based and offers flexibility so that we can take into account individual needs. Our primary concern will always be the safety of the victim and any affected household members
Maintain impartiality in situations where a relationship has broken down and this has not been due to domestic violence or abuse.
Treat victims with respect and ensure that where possible their privacy is maintained. We will have private rooms available to carry out interviews and we will try to interview the victim separately from their abuser. We will not pass on information to a third party without consent from the person unless we believe there is a risk to children or vulnerable adults. (see our ETG Safeguarding Adults at Risk and Safeguarding Children Policy and Procedures)
Provide victims with a named contact, where requested, the named contact will be of the same sex. Where required we will provide translation services.
Ensure that people experiencing domestic abuse know that they can meet staff in confidence at our offices or at an agreed choice of safe venue. We will also agree the method of contact that the individual wishes us to use to stay in contact with them.
Offer training to staff where the role may involve working with victims of domestic abuse and we will use the expertise that is available both within the Group and within the community to provide advice and guidance that is relevant.
Consider taking action to evict the perpetrators of domestic abuse using the powers available under the Housing Act 1996 and other relevant legislation.
Carry out a risk assessment (using the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and 'Honour'-based Violence (DASH) Risk Identification Checklist) and safety planning to provide support for the person experiencing domestic abuse and their children where present.
In conjunction with partner agencies, provide improved security to a resident’s home, where this is required.
Advise people experiencing domestic abuse of external agencies who can offer further advice and support dependent on their needs and work with our partners to ensure co-ordinated services to prioritise the safety of the person who is experiencing the domestic abuse and the safety of their children, where present.
Offer advice and assistance via Homeless Persons Units in cases where emergency temporary accommodation is required. This can also involve referral to Refuges via the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
In cases where the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and 'Honour'-based Violence (DASH) Risk Identification checklist does not meet the threshold of a MARAC referral, with the agreement of the individual we will organise multi-agency meetings to ensure support is received from all relevant agencies (support agencies, police, victim support etc).
Make a referral to our welfare benefit advice team for support around financial issues.
Take firm action (where evidence is available) against anyone responsible for domestic abuse, where we can do so without compromising the safety of the individual, and work with partner agencies where necessary and keep them updated of any action taken.
Signpost the person experiencing domestic abuse to relevant organisations to provide legal advice as appropriate.
Report incidents to the police on behalf of individuals or support them in doing so (with their permission), where they feel too intimidated to report incidents themselves. We can also offer third party reporting services if requested.
Ensure all our officers receive specialist training on domestic abuse.
4. Monitoring 4.1 We will record the diversity data of our victims and where possible the perpetrators so that we can monitor who is contacting us with regards to domestic abuse so we know where to target any future publicity. We will also record what support has been offered, whether internally or externally so that we can monitor how effective it has been.
4.2 We will respond to reports of domestic abuse within agreed timescales, this is currently monitored by the ASB Team.
5. Conditions and exceptions to policy 5.1 As an organisation we provide refuges to women and children who are victims of domestic abuse through our care and support subsidiary, East Living. However the refuges are not specifically there to provide support to our tenants, shared owners and leaseholders. As such the refuges will not come under this policy. However we will use the knowledge and expertise of staff in refuges to assist and support victims of domestic abuse.
5.2 further conditions and exceptions may be set out in the individual tenancy agreements which should be referred to when applying this policy.
6. Policy equality and diversity statement 6.1 East Thames is committed to valuing and promoting equality and diversity. We recognise that we have a duty to eliminate unfair treatment and discrimination in the services we provide and to promote and value respect in everything we do. We expect our staff to share these values and treat all customers with fairness and respect.
6.2 To ensure we meet this commitment we carry out Equality Impact Assessments (EqIAs) on policies that directly affect customers and ensure we take account of equalities legislation where appropriate.
6.3 The outcome of the Equality Impact Assessment on Domestic Abuse has lead to provision of Guidance that clearly outlines the needs of people under each relevant ‘Protected Characteristic’ as outlined within the Equality Act 2010 as well as other guidance to support staff managing Domestic Abuse cases. (See Domestic Violence and Abuse Guidance for staff).
6.4 Policies and resident fact sheets may be translated or interpreted on request and we aim to use plain English guidelines on language and layout so that they are widely understood. Staff can also provide verbal explanations of policies on request and we can be contacted either through our website http://www.east-thames.co.uk/policies or by calling the Customer Contact Centre on 020 8522 2000.
Appendix 1 – Options for support and action The Police
Are required to respond to calls for protection.
The police can arrest an aggressive partner, with the agreement of the victim.
Will make an arrest to prevent harm to any person or the property.
Will offer victims support whether or not formal proceedings are taken.
Each police station has an officer with a specific responsibility for this.
Wherever possible will provide an officer of the same gender as the victim.
In some circumstances victims of domestic abuse may wish to leave the home and be re-housed elsewhere and not wish to take legal action against the perpetrator.
This can be through a valid fear that legal action would exacerbate the situation, or
because for someone who is working and not eligible for legal aid the cost of seeking an injunction can be prohibitive or for some women there may be a fear that they will lose child support payments.
In other cases the person may wish to take legal measures to stop the violence or exclude the perpetrator from the home. One option is to seek an injunction. An injunction is an order made by a court requiring someone to do something, or more commonly to not do something. If an injunction is breached that is treated as contempt of court, and the perpetrator may be committed to prison for such contempt.
Family Law Act 1996
The Family Law Act created two types of injunctions relating specifically to domestic
Non- Molestation Orders; and
Non- Molestation Orders are to prevent further violence or harassment. Occupation
Orders regulate the use of the home. Either type of order can be sought on its own, or both can be sought at the same time. It is important to remember a number of points about injunctions:
They are not always effective – if the perpetrator of violence is not concerned
about the prospect of going to prison an injunction will be ineffective against them.
An applicant for an injunction is not guaranteed in getting one, even when they are entitled to apply for one.
They can be very expensive, if a tenant is working and does not qualify for Public Funding (Legal Aid) they may not be able to afford the solicitor’s costs involved in obtaining and enforcing an injunction.
Domestic Violence Crime and Victims’ Act 2004
The Domestic Violence Crime and Victims’ Act strengthens the position of the Family Law Act by:
Making a breach of ‘non molestation order’ under Family Law Act 1996 (FLA) a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of 5 years;
Extending availability of injunctions to same sex couples, and to those who have never cohabited; and
Creating a new offence of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable
adult – all members of a household, aged 16 and over, may be liable for the
Establishing statutory multi-agency domestic homicide reviews when anyone over 16 years dies of violence, abuse or neglect from a relative, intimate partner or member of the same household.
Making common assault a criminal offence (the perpetrator can be arrested.)
Extending availability of Restraining Orders (from Protection from Harassment Act 1997) to any offence, on conviction; or acquittal where the court considers it necessary to protect the victim from harassment, based on ‘balance of probability’ evidence.
Introducing a statutory Victims Code of Practice and Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, as well as allowing victims to take their case to the Parliamentary Ombudsman if they feel the code has not been adhered to by the criminal justice agencies.
Giving victims of mentally disordered offenders the same rights to information as other victims of serious violent and sexual offences.
Giving the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority the right to recover from offenders the money it has paid to their victims in compensation.
A surcharge to be payable on criminal convictions and fixed penalty notices which will contribute to the Victims Fund. For motoring offenders the surcharge will only apply to serious and persistent offenders.
Bringing in the Law Commission recommendation for a two stage court trial to ensure that high volume crimes like fraud and internet child pornography can be punished in full.
Refuges offer emergency and temporary accommodation, advocacy and support to women (and in some cases children) escaping abuse. Refuge addresses (and sometimes their telephone numbers) are confidential for safety reasons. Refuge houses provide emergency and temporary accommodation, together with a package of support, information and advocacy. There are also refuges available for specific BAME groups.
Non-refuge-based services provide outreach, floating support and other services for women and children. These may include:
Resettlement services - enabling women and their children to make new lives in the community after leaving refuge.
Drop-in centres and survivors’ support groups.
Telephone help lines.
Specialist court advocacy services (provided through an - Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVA)
Floating support’ schemes providing advocacy and support to families living in the community.
These are not available in all boroughs but where they are, they provide professionally installed security measures to allow those experiencing domestic violence to remain in their own home where it is safe for them to do so, where it is their choice and where the perpetrator no longer lives within the accommodation.
Housing Review Panel
This is an internal option for East Homes tenants. The panel can increase banding or in extreme cases agree temporary accommodation or one permanent direct offer of
accommodation (though this can be anywhere within our housing stock). All cases
presented to the panel will require evidence which can include police reports before a
decision will be made.
Signposting to other agencies and services
It may be appropriate to assure the victim that they are not alone in suffering violence in the home and to congratulate them on their bravery in confronting the issue.
Relevant supporting agencies should be contacted as appropriate to the victims needs and wishes.
Consent should be obtained from the victim to share information with other agencies
Information sharing protocols should be agreed if not already in place in line with ETG Information Management Policy which includes data protection and confidentiality
Work with other agencies to provide outreach support where appropriate.
Appendix 2 Domestic Abuse help-lines The following help-lines can provide practical help and advice including:
Emergency refuge accommodation
Safety Planning and advice
English National Domestic Violence Helpline (women and children)
0808 2000 247
Opening hours – Open 24 hours and is a free
Domestic violence – support for people who inflict violence
Respect Respect runs support services and programmes for people who inflict violence in relationships including young men and women. They also provide an advice line for men who are victims of an abusive relationship 4th Floor, Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street , London EC2A 4LT
helpline 0808 802 4040 (Open: Monday - Friday 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm) email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.respectphoneline.org.uk
Domestic violence – support for young people
Respect not fear web: http://www.respectnotfear.co.uk/whatsnotok/ Website for young people about domestic violence
The Hide Out web: http://www.thehideout.org.uk/over10/default.aspa Women's Aid has created this website to help young people understand domestic abuse, and how to take positive action if it's happening to them.