Collaborative Solutions: Providing Safe Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Abuse

  • Bernie Lally
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Collaborative Solutions: Providing Safe Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Abuse

Trigger Warning: While this article doesn’t look in detail at a specific case study, it does discuss the issue and impacts of domestic abuse which some readers may find upsetting. Please make an informed choice before reading further.

Domestic abuse remains a pervasive issue with often devastating impacts for individuals and families.

In Part 1 we looked at the scale of the issue of Domestic Abuse, considered the implications of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, and identified the need for Safe Accommodation for victims of Domestic Abuse.

In Part 2 we will;

    • Explore the importance of collaboration between organizations and local authorities to deliver Safe Accommodation for victims of domestic abuse, and;
    • Look at some potential delivery routes to increase the supply and quality of safe accommodation.
    • We will also highlight the importance of confidentiality and sensitivity when developing Safe Accommodation, and;
    • Consider the wider benefits of Safe Accommodation.

Collaboration with Local Authorities

Creating a comprehensive support system for victims of domestic abuse requires collaboration between a variety of partners, for example, but not limited to:

  • County Councils
  • District & Borough Councils
  • Unitary Authorities
  • Health organisations (e.g. hospitals and GP practices)
  • Police
  • Domestic Abuse support providers
  • Legal Aid
  • Registered Providers of Social Housing
  • Probation services

Working collaboratively to create a safer and more supportive society can lead to better outcomes for those affected. Local Authorities should also work with one another across the UK to ensure there are reciprocal arrangements for accessing Safe Accommodation; this can increase the housing options and availability for victims who need to flee their local area where there is a significant risk of harm and in turn provide a mutual benefit; a risk area for someone can be a place of safety for another.

Appropriate Safe Accommodation

There are a range of types of Safe Accommodation, including:

  • Refuge Accommodation: accommodation with intensive support on site. Ideally a purpose-built set of flats with communal space and staff offices onsite, meeting accessibility requirements, but often may be a HMO providing shared kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Specialist Safe Accommodation: a similar service to refuge accommodation, but specifically for victims who share a protected characteristic(s).
  • Dispersed Accommodation: self-contained accommodation, in dispersed locations, with specialist domestic abuse support. This may better support victims unable to stay in a refuge for example if they have access requirements a refuge cannot meet, or a teenage son, in a female refuge.

Potential Safe Accommodation Delivery Routes

Local Authorities can seek solutions to address both the undersupply, and the quality of the existing Safe Accommodation housing stock:

  1. Improving the quality of existing Safe Accommodation
    • Authorities can work with support providers, private landlords and registered providers of social housing to develop agreed minimum standards for Safe Accommodation.
    • Where authorities are stock-holders or corporate landlords for property which is used as Safe Accommodation they can lead by example in exploring capital funding options to improve the quality & suitability of accommodation.
  1. Increasing the supply of Safe Accommodation
    • Authorities can explore reutilising existing assets for Safe Accommodation: for example, by bringing vacant property back into use.
    • Authorities may redevelop brownfield sites within its asset portfolio, or work with partners to identify co-located assets, for example windfall sites, ransom strips and garage sites which could be redeveloped.
    • Once sites are identified Authorities may choose to deliver in-house, or they could explore joint venture delivery options, for example appointing Registered Providers of Social Housing to design, build and operate a new refuge providing Safe Accommodation.
    • Safe Accommodation projects leading to an increase in overall affordable housing supply can explore the Homes England Affordable Homes Programme and can seek to deliver these new homes at social rent levels.
    • Where a Safe Accommodation project redevelops existing housing and in doing so provides additionality, Homes England funding can also be explored.

For both improved quality, and increased supply of Safe Accommodation, a business case to evidence the payback period on the initial capital investment, from rental income should be established.

Provision of furniture and household goods is often not included due to a lack of funding, but victims often flee their homes with nothing. Recognising the scale and impact of the challenge victims face in setting up a new home, social worker and interior designer, Emily Wheeler established the charity Furnishing Futures to create trauma-informed healing homes for women and children who have escaped domestic abuse and been placed in empty social housing.

Every week we meet women and children sleeping on cold concrete floors who can’t cook a meal or wash their clothes because they can’t afford to buy the items they need for their homes. These situations increase the risk of women returning to perpetrators, and make women feel hopeless and abandoned.

Providing a safe and comfortable trauma-informed home with everything a woman needs to start again increases her safety; supports physical and mental health and wellbeing; reduces poverty and social isolation; increases engagement with universal services and sustains tenancies. Having their basic need for safety met in this way is the foundation for survivors and their children being able to start rebuilding their lives and starting their journey to recovery”

Emily Wheeler, CEO, Furnishing Futures

As a small charity Furnishing Futures and other third sector organisations alone don’t have the means to furnish safe accommodation at the scale needed. Business cases should seek to include sufficient upfront investment to provide white goods, carpets and furnishing for Safe Accommodation and the interior design should use a trauma-informed approach.

Safe Accommodation projects using Local Authority assets should consider the implications of the Subsidy Control Act 2022, and of an authority’s duty to achieve best value for its assets.

The Importance of Confidentiality & Sensitivity

Confidentiality: All parties collaborating on a Safe Accommodation project must be fully aware of the need to protect both:

  1. Identities of any victims of domestic abuse they may engage or consult with in developing suitable accommodation, and
  2. The location of any existing or potential safe accommodation

Collaborating organisations should be prepared to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Sensitivity: A trauma-informed approach should be taken to both any engagement with victim survivors, and in an approach to design of buildings, décor, and implementation of support services. People and organisations working with victims of domestic abuse should be aware that an individual victims experience may impact their ability to engage, for example if a surveyor needs to visit an existing refuge to review for potential refurbishment, consideration should be given to allocating a surveyor of the same gender as the residents, and if this is not possible, the visit should be discussed in advance with residents and any necessary adjustments should be made.

Wider Benefits

The development of good quality Safe Accommodation can help local authorities with its responsibilities in other areas and deliver indirect savings. For example, improving the energy efficiency of Safe Accommodation can contribute towards an authority’s climate commitment, whilst reducing running costs and improving health outcomes for residents. Looking at indirect benefits and the wider social value of Safe Accommodation projects, can help to strengthen the business case, and improve the cost-benefit analysis.


By working collaboratively to identify solutions and opportunities for innovation, it is possible to address the issues of quality and supply in safe accommodation. This can better ensure that appropriate safe accommodation is readily available for those seeking refuge and support.

31ten has significant experience in working closely with Local Authorities in a range of ways to support them in meeting their housing delivery needs. Get in touch if we can help assess the local need for safe accommodation provision and develop options, site identification and business cases to address any gaps in supply.