Homelessness in Bedford linked to domestic abuse more than 100 times during pandemic

The spike has been branded “shocking” by charities

Monday, 20th September 2021, 3:49 pm
Updated Monday, 20th September 2021, 3:50 pm

Domestic abuse pushed Bedford people into homelessness or put them at risk of losing their homes more than 100 times during the coronavirus pandemic, figures reveal.

A spike in such cases nationally has been branded “shocking” by domestic abuse charities, which are calling for more funding to help survivors.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) data shows in the year to March, the council in Bedford found 90 households had become homeless, while 23 needed help to prevent them from losing their home because of domestic abuse.

113 families in Bedford needed housing help because of domestic abuse

It means a total of 113 families needed housing help because of domestic abuse – 52 more than the previous year.

Across England, councils received 31,180 requests for help from households who had lost their accommodation or were threatened with homelessness due to domestic abuse in 2020-21 – a 17 per cent increase on the year before.

Of those, almost half were households with children.

Though the gender of the person applying for help is not specified, separate figures from the Office for National Statistics show women are more than twice as likely to be victims of domestic abuse as men.

Sophie Francis-Cansfield, policy manager at Women’s Aid, said: “It’s shocking that, in 2021, women fleeing domestic abuse still face the terrifying prospect of either returning to their perpetrator or facing homelessness.

“We continue to face a shortage of bed spaces in specialist refuge services, and this has a huge impact for women at a time when they are most in need of support.”

She added the charity's research showed women who survive domestic abuse, some pregnant or with children, are still sleeping rough, with black and minoritised women being disproportionately affected.

The Government said it was spending an "unprecedented" £750 million on tackling rough sleeping and homelessness and that the MHCLG figures showed a 7.3 per cent drop in families needing support from homelessness services in the year to March.

But Mark Brooks, chairman of The ManKind initiative, which supports male victims of domestic abuse, said the figures were particularly concerning in light of the drop in homelessness as a whole.

He said: "The key is to make sure that victims have more access to safe accommodation and we need new housing reforms to work."

The Local Government Association said councils had worked tirelessly to tackle homelessness during the pandemic.

David Renard, housing spokesman, said: “The increase in households with children who were homeless or threatened with homelessness due to domestic abuse is deeply worrying.

“We want to work with Government on a cross-departmental long-term homelessness prevention strategy and tackle our housing shortage as we recover from the pandemic.”

A spokesman for the MHCLG said: "We’re ensuring councils provide specialist support, so those who leave their home to escape domestic abuse have somewhere safe to go and we’re backing this with £125 million funding – this is alongside a pioneering £3.7 million Respite Room trial, providing safe housing and support for victims at risk of sleeping rough.”