Making a stand against domestic abuse
By Ali Pearce, Housing Services Manager
1 October 2019
As part of my role in housing services, I lead Sovereign’s Domestic Abuse Working Group, managing changes within the business to support those affected by the issue of domestic abuse. Last year, Sovereign committed to the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Make a Stand pledge against domestic abuse.
As a major employer and as the landlord of thousands of homes, we have a responsibility to support colleagues and residents who may be affected.
Looking back, we’ve been proactive in ensuring we that the four pledges of Make a Stand were met.
Firstly, for colleagues, we’ve given a profile to domestic abuse through a user-friendly policy that covers:
- What domestic abuse is
- Our approach to it
- How we’ll respond to reports
- How we’ll work with the police, local authority and specialist agencies
- Who our employees and residents can contact for support
Additionally, our people who work directly with residents take part in domestic abuse awareness training and we have strong reporting systems in place. But we know we can do more.
We are creating a bespoke programme to give our people - particularly our tradespeople – the confidence to recognise subtler signs of abuse, such as economic abuse.
Building and sharing my knowledge
Over the past year, I’ve shared my extensive knowledge and understanding of economic abuse with other housing associations, GPs, local authorities and charities, as well as writing a blog published by HQN and 24Housing.
It’s important that we keep on talking about domestic abuse - and offer practical help as well. In Dorset, we work with the You Trust, giving refuge to men and to women with teenage boys (over the age of 15) as well as LGBTQ+ couples and couples fleeing ‘honour-based’ violence who are unable to access traditional safe places.
I’m also an independent on the Thames Valley Domestic Abuse Scrutiny Panel, and have worked with police, victim support and the Crown Prosecution Service to improve their processes. And in my role as an advisor with the charity, Surviving Economic Abuse, I’ve held several meetings with leading banks, talking about ways to keep those with mortgages in their homes when things start to go wrong, rather than putting them at risk of homelessness.
How to get help
In 2018, it was estimated domestic abuse affected around two million people in the UK – men and women. We're often focused on spotting domestic abuse in our homes – and rightly so. But those who suffered in 2018 may have been my colleagues.
Our domestic abuse policy offers both practical and personal support to colleagues who are suffering with domestic abuse. These range from changing work email addresses and phone numbers to stop harassment, to giving them a lone worker device or emergency alarm, or time to meet with support agencies during working hours.
We have information about domestic abuse and how to get help on our website and our resident portal, MySovereign, as well as on our intranet. We’ve included contact information for local and national support services, as well as how to report it to us.
Finally, Heather Bowman, our Chief Operating Officer, is our senior champion, but I head up Sovereign’s Domestic Abuse Working Group that represents teams across Sovereign and influences business decisions and actions.
From making a stand to taking steps
We know how important it is that we help protect people against abuse and we’re proud of the stand we’ve made, supporting victims with an assisted move or support at work.
But the problem is not going to go away anytime soon.
The lack of supply means that 60 per cent of victims are unable to find housing. As well as being there with our support, we need to work together with specialist agencies to create more safe homes and places for people when they need us most.
- Put in place and embed a policy and way of thinking that supports residents who are affected by domestic abuse.
- Make information available about national and local domestic abuse support services available on your website and in other appropriate places so that they are easily accessible for residents and colleagues.
- Put in place a People policy, or amend existing policies, to support colleagues who may be experiencing domestic abuse.
- Appoint a champion at a senior level to own your activities that support people experiencing domestic abuse.