Council housing rules to be rewritten to help victims of domestic violence

Schools will be encouraged to talk about 'toxic masculinity'

Thursday, 25th March 2021 — By Harry Taylor

angela mason

Councillor Angela Mason

CAMDEN is set to overhaul its housing policies to help victims of domestic abuse secure safe places to live as part of a new council-wide policy.

The Town Hall said it would be embedding the issue into every department’s practices, offering more support to victims and encouraging schools to teach more about the dangers of “toxic masculinity”.

In housing, a rewritten policy will give special dispensation for victims of domestic abuse and violence.

Before the council categorised it under “harassment”, which meant that victims would lose housing register points if they moved out of their council home for a certain period of time, making it harder for them to return to the borough.

They will now be able to get “direct offers” from the council for homes, which it is hoped will allow them to stay in Camden.

A report on the new policies, approved by the council’s cabinet councillors last night (Wednesday), also focuses on how victims have had to uproot their lives and move out of their homes to escape abuse, while the people responsible are allowed to stay.

This situation was called “ridiculous” by Camden’s education chief Councillor Angela Mason, who is leading the changes.

“The presumption should be to keep women and children in their homes and in the community if we can,” she said.

“They shouldn’t have to go through this terrible process of social exile. Sometimes that will be the solution, but if that doesn’t happen it doesn’t mean the perpetrator stays there and the pattern repeats, possibly with a new partner.”

Cllr Mason said she was hoping for a culture change at the Town Hall with added awareness of the issue.

She said: “I fundamentally believe that to deal with domestic violence, which is a very complex issue, that every part of the council has a part to play.

“The numbers of referrals coming in through social work are really very high – it’s the most common presenting issue – and the impact on people’s lives is just devastating in many cases.

“The costs are enormous, emotional trauma and distress. We have all got to be committed to recognising this abuse and stop it.”

Other parts of the policy will see new mothers get more sessions with healthcare visitors, which officials hope means more instances of abuse after child birth will be picked up.

The themes “prevent, identify, support, disrupt and enforce” include counselling and intervention for boys who have been victims or witnessed domestic abuse at home.

Previous links have been made between those witnessing it, and those inflicting it later in life.

Cllr Mason said: “In our own case [in Camden] we have several horrific murders where young men have been murdered or young men have murdered and in several of those cases, it’s quite noticeable that the perpetrator has a history of a childhood of experiencing domestic abuse.

“That’s why our youth safety work talks about trauma informed practice in schools, so teachers are more aware and can respond to children who have experienced quite considerable trauma including domestic violence.”

The report shows that in 2019/2020, domestic abuse was a factor in 70 per cent of child protection cases, and referrals to Camden Safety Net increased throughout 2020.

An inquiry, led by the council’s women’s forum, is due to begin in April on preventing domestic abuse. The council started a survivors’ group last year, which meets weekly and will help shape future policy.

Cllr Mason said: “Through some of the therapeutic approaches; education in schools and social work, we can begin to recalibrate relationships to provide support as early as possible.”

She added: “I am sure many men can change their ways and relationships can be mended, broken relationships can be mended, but we haven’t really found terribly good ways of making that happen at the moment.”

How to get help

THE New Journal has been regularly printing a helpline for anybody who is living through the coronavirus crisis in fear of domestic abuse. Anybody who needs support can call the Camden Safety Net team on 020 7974 2526.

In an emergency, people at risk should call the police on 999, but can then stay silent and press 55 if they fear they are being overheard by an abuser.

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