Government urged to follow through on promise to help women leave abusive partners
Charitable organisation Scottish Women’s Aid is calling on the Scottish Government to press ahead with plans for a leaving fund to ensure women and girls experiencing domestic abuse are not trapped in unsafe homes as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.
As part of its #CostofLeaving campaign, launched to highlight how poverty enables the perpetrators of domestic abuse, the charity has noted that the government committed in December 2020 to exploring whether a fund to bridge the gap between leaving an unsafe home and receiving a first Universal Credit payment could be created. The fund, it said, is “yet to materialise”.
Scottish Women’s Aid chief executive Marsha Scott said “now is the time to act” because “abusers are using women’s very real concerns about financial hardship as an additional means to control and isolate them”.
“We are particularly concerned about increased opportunities for financial abuse, as abusers use crises as an excuse to establish or increase control over finances,” she said.
“We know the Scottish Government shares our goal of ending men’s violence against women, but we are concerned that the needs of women and children experiencing domestic abuse have slipped down the priority list.
“Many women’s experiences of domestic abuse are directly tied to their experiences of poverty and the threat of destitution.
“Children’s and women’s needs must be a headline in Scotland’s response to the cost-of-living crisis, not a footnote explaining why they are an afterthought.”
The government committed to looking at the prospect of a leaving fund following a series of recommendations made by Scottish Women’s Aid in its 2020 report Improving housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
It also made the commitment via the Domestic Abuse Protection (Scotland) Act 2021 to give the police and the courts the power to remove abusers from the home and give social landlords greater control to transfer tenancies to the person being abused.
Scottish Women’s Aid said that despite that legislation being passed 18 months ago the measures have not yet been implemented, adding that “urgent movement on this work should be key in the Scottish Government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis”.
“Strong leadership and a demonstration of political will are required,” Scott said.
“We’re calling on the Scottish Government and parliament to keep the promises they’ve made to women and children experiencing domestic abuse and take urgent action on practical steps that will help them.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said it is “firmly committed” to implementing all 27 recommendations made by Scottish Women’s Aid, including “looking at the financial support women need when leaving an abusive partner”. That includes allocating £24m over two years to “organisations tackling domestic abuse and supporting people affected by it”.
“We’re very concerned about the additional hardship women and children experiencing domestic abuse are facing as a result of the cost-of-living crisis [and] we recognise this can impact their ability to leave the abuser,” the spokesperson said.
“We’re exploring the delivery of the financial support that women may need when leaving an abusive partner.
“This is why we’re working with Scottish Women’s Aid and other organisations to discuss how this support can be best developed and delivered.
“We’re also giving social landlords greater control to transfer housing tenancies to a domestic abuse survivor, to help them avoid homelessness.”