Local Authority Responsibilities: Safe Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Abuse

  • Bernie Lally
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Local Authority Responsibilities: 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 knows no boundaries and affects individuals regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, or background. Victims may find themselves trapped in a cycle of violence, unable to leave an abusive relationship. Recognizing the scale of this issue, local authorities play a crucial role in creating an environment that fosters safety and support for those seeking refuge: 

  • The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 2.1 million people aged 16 years and over (1.4 million women and 751,000 men) experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 20231
  • Domestic abuse is the leading cause of morbidity for women aged 19-44 greater than cancer, war and road traffic accidents2 
  • It is estimated that the cost of domestic abuse for victims in England and Wales for the year ending March 2017 is approximately £66 billion3 


The Implications of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 for Local Authorities 

The introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act in 2021 brought about some significant changes for organisations working in the sector to be aware of:  

  1. The definition of what constitutes domestic abuse and therefore who could be considered a victim has been broadened: The new definition emphasises that domestic abuse is not only physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse4.   
  2. DHLUC funding for local authorities to provide support in safe accommodation has been committed to the financial year 2024/255. 
  3. Safe accommodation has been defined as solely dedicated to providing a safe place to stay for victims of domestic abuse, including expert support but there is currently no commitment from Government to provide specific capital funding to support the delivery of this. 

There is a new duty under Section 4 of the Act for tier 1 authorities to:

  • Identify demand for Safe Accommodation
  • Develop and publish a Safe Accommodation Strategy
  • Commission / provide Safe Accommodation Support to meet need and support those who live within relevant, Safe Accommodation.  

The Need for Safe Accommodation

One of the most pressing challenges faced by victims of domestic abuse is the immediate need for a safe place to stay. Safe Accommodation can provide a lifeline for individuals and their children, fleeing domestic violence, offering a secure and supporting environment where they can begin to rebuild their lives. However, the demand for safe accommodation outstrips supply. The Council of Europe and Istanbul Convention recommends a minimum of 1 unit of domestic abuse dedicated accommodation per 10,000 population. 

For example, a typical unitary authority with a population of 500,000 people would need to provide 50 units of Safe Accommodation. These should vary in size, e.g. a mixture of 1-bed, 2-bed and 3-bed homes, to meet the needs of different family sizes. A London Borough averaging a population of 250,000, for example, would need to provide 25 units of housing.

The new duty helps provide clear and updated definitions for Domestic Abuse and Safe Accommodation in setting out Local Authority responsibilities, and it has resulted in the allocation of revenue funding for support in Safe Accommodation. There remains a significant funding gap in providing dedicated capital funds for the provision of Safe Accommodation itself. The next post in this series will look at the importance of collaboration between partners to deliver Safe Accommodation, explore some different types of Safe Accommodation and consider potential Local Authority delivery routes for these.

The next post in this series continues here… Collaborative Solutions: Providing Safe Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Abuse



1 Office for National Statistics (2023) Statistical bulletin, Domestic abuse in England and Wales Overview: November 2023. Available at: Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2023 (Accessed: 23 January 2024) 

SafeLives (2021) Health Pathfinder, Safelives. Available at: https://safelives.org.uk/healthpathfinder (accessed: 23 January 2024) 

3 Home Office (2019) The economic and social costs of domestic abuse, GOV.UK. Available at: www. gov.uk/government/publications/the-economic-and-social-costs-of-domestic-abuse (accessed: 23 January 2024) 

4 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2021/17/section/1/enacted (accessed 23 January 2024) 

5 Local Authority Domestic Abuse Duty: 2023 to 2024 and 2024 to 2025 funding allocations https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-authority-domestic-abuse-duty-2023-to-2024-and-2024-to-2025-funding-allocations (accessed on 24 January 2024)