The current coronavirus lockdown in England has led to concerns that pressure cooker conditions in domestic households can lead to heightened abuse for victims of domestic abuse.
A social housing mobility scheme which has which has found new homes for over 50 domestic abuse survivors in the last year alone highlights this example from its growing caseload.
“Recently we were approached by a retired NHS nurse who had been suffering financial exploitation from her family. Circumstances had led her to sell her property to avoid repossession and thereafter under great duress her family had ‘borrowed’ money from her, leaving her with very little and no home to live in. Of course, the family members had no intention of paying back the so called ‘loan’ and avoided every attempt by her to recoup her own money. They avoided her at all cost”, explains Brenda Fraser, Homefinder UK’s service manager. This is one example of the many methods of financial abuse experienced by survivors and is well documented by agencies such as ‘Surviving Economic Abuse’.
“She stayed where she could, paid for hotels, B&B’s and slept in her car for 2 years” and by the time she approached Homefinder UK, she had sold her car to pay off other debts and was sleeping on a family member’s balcony. “In order to stay a little longer, she had to give them a precious piece of jewellery”, Brenda continues.
Despite the fact that all social housing lettings have been put on hold during the current COVID-19 pandemic, Homefinder UK reached out to their partner housing associations across the country and was able to secure a home in the England, not too far from her grandchildren. Sanctuary Housing Association identified a property and helped to urgently facilitate the move just 7 days after the initial call for help.
“I have been in the property for two days, but my life and my mental health has already dramatically improved. It seems that once Homefinder UK knows about your situation, they activate a plan and apply it vigorously to ensure they find you a home as soon as possible”, says the survivor, a former neonatal nurse with 30 years’ experience.
Unfortunately, the property was let out completely empty and the current lockdown restrictions mean that the local authority is unable to tap into the Emergency Support Scheme. However, the housing mobility scheme is now in the process of applying for funding to assist this retired nurse with general living expenses, food parcels, white goods and some basic furniture.
This case highlights the urgent need to unblock restrictions to new housing opportunities for highly vulnerable cases such as those experiencing homelessness or violence due to domestic abuse – whilst not compromising the COVID-19 physical contact and distance guidelines.
Ninesh Muthiah, CEO of Home Connections & Homefinder UK added: “We are committed to overcoming all hurdles and going the extra mile to continue to help all vulnerable applicants experiencing or at threat of domestic abuse or homelessness. We all need to comply with the COVID-19 lockdown guidelines, however there are still ways to work together with social landlords to identify homes for those in need. We feel that a level of emergency activity can still be achieved via the use of virtual tours, e-signups for tenancy agreements and so on to avoid physical contact and still help our clients.”
To read the full story of this retired NHS nurse, click on this article by The Independent:
‘They have broken me’: Former NHS nurse on ordeal of being cooped up with abusive son during lockdown