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Staying safe

If you are living with the perpetrator, there is safety planning that you can do. You can plan exit routes for emergencies, pack a bag if you have to leave in a crisis or put emergency contacts on your phone/in a safe place so they are easily accessible. 

Always call 999 if you or your children are in danger. 

Silent help - Call 999 and if you can't talk press 55 and the operator will respond.

  • Plan an escape route from every room in your home
  • Think of a safe area in your home to go if an argument happens – stay away from rooms with no exits and hard surfaces where there are objects which can be used as weapons i.e. bathroom, kitchen. If an argument happens, try to move to one of the safe areas.
  • Think about and make a list of safe people to contact, if possible, memorise all important phone numbers.
  • Speak to a trusted neighbour about your situation who will call the police if they hear a disturbance
  • Develop a ‘code word’ or ‘sign’ so that family and friends know when to call for help.
  • Keep money / change with you at all times – know where the nearest working phone box is.
  • Think about what you will say to your partner if they become violent. Use your judgement of the abuser to protect you and your children. You are in no way colluding with the abuser if you give them what they want in order to protect you and your children. Call the police as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Know where to go and what to do in an emergency and have an alternative.
  • Teach your children what to do in an emergency – tell them to call 999 and be able to give the address but not to get involved – they should never use a phone in front of the abuser as this may endanger them
  • Call 999 in the event of an emergency – think of alternative ways to keep safe if the police do not respond straight away

If you are planning to leave you may not feel able to leave immediately, but you can plan and be prepared for when an emergency does arise, and you need to leave your home. Leaving is often the most dangerous time so plan leaving so you can increase your safety. You can:

  • Keep a record of the violent and controlling behaviour to support any future action you may take – civil or criminal.
  • Log incidents with the police, even if you do not want to press charges
  • Seek legal advice, Rights of Women / Community Legal Service Directory link/ National DV Helpline )
  • Have any bruises or injuries recorded by a doctor for future use in any legal proceedings, rehousing procedures, etc. You can also take a picture using a camera or your mobile phone.
  • Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret, but accessible place so you can leave quickly.
  • Keep important documents in a safe place, either hidden in your home at with friends / family (e.g. marriage / birth certificates, national insurance card, passport, driving licence etc,) including items of sentimental value, so that they can be grabbed in a hurry.
  • Only tell people you trust where you will be. Lie if you have to – this will protect you and them.

The following items will be useful but are not essential for you to take if you decide that you want to leave in a hurry. Remember we can always help you to get these items later and with police support:

  • ID – passports, birth / marriage certificate, NI number, driving licence etc
  • Money – bank / credit cards
  • Medical – prescribed medicines, prescriptions, medical cards, children’s medical records
  • Legal – injunctions, divorce papers, mortgage documents, tenancy agreement
  • Special Items: photos, child’s favourite toy, house and car keys.
  • Always try to take your children with you or make arrangements to leave them with someone safe.

Remember: If the last number you called was a refuge, taxi or the place you are going to stay, dial another number – for example, the Speaking Clock (dial 123)

If you are no longer living with the perpetrator, but they know where you live and you feel unsafe, you may also be able to access a sanctuary scheme with your local council. This involves an assessment to help keep you safe in your home, and they can put extra security measures on your home such as secure locks, panic alarms, CCTV, security lights to help make your home safer. You can contact your local council to put these measures in place for free, usually with permission from the landlord. 

Unfortunately, domestic violence and abuse may not end even when the relationship has ended. In order to increase your safety, you can consider:

  • Inform trusted friends or relatives that you are no longer in the relationship, and they should call the police if they see your former partner near or trying to gain access to your home.
  • Change locks on your doors and make sure that all windows and doors are as secure as possible.
  • Have additional security installed- sensor security lighting/ burglar alarm
  • Change the routes you use to take your children to school.
  • Inform people who look after your children eg, teachers, childminders etc, which people have permission to collect them. If you have an injunction, give a copy to the school.
  • When at work ask people to screen your calls.
  • Change your routines i.e. shop in different place/supermarket at different times and take a different route home etc.

If you do not feel safe to remain in your home, you can seek a refuge space or make a Homelessness Application.

What is a refuge?

A refuge is a safe space where women and children experiencing domestic abuse can stay free from fear of the perpetrator. 

Refuge addresses are confidential and there are often additional security measures in place to keep them safe such as CCTV, alarm systems and additional locks on doors and windows. 

Each refuge will have its own assessment criteria, which will include proximity to the area you are fleeing from, the number and age of children that can be accommodated, and the level of support that can be provided.

Some refuges are self-contained, however most will have a private room for you and your children with shared facilities such as kitchen, living room, and bathroom. You will be expected to cook for yourself and your children, and budget for your own living expenses.

The amount of time a woman and any children will live in a refuge will vary. However, refuges are short term crisis accommodation, and you will usually expect to stay there for around four - six months. You will be allocated a key worker or support worker, who will help you explore your housing options for when you leave the refuge. The key worker will also support you with your practical and emotional needs during your time at the refuge.
The rent for refuges can be high, and your keyworker will support you to apply for housing benefit to help cover the costs. Some refuges cannot accept referrals for women who are not eligible for Housing Benefit. 

Some refuges will have a play room and services for children, such as a children’s worker who will help your children settle in to the refuge and arrange play activities for them.

Find a refuge space

If you would like to find a refuge space you can call our helpline on 01736 367539. This service is available Monday-Friday from 10am – 3pm. Advisors can do a refuge search for current vacancies which are suitable for you and your needs.  

To do a refuge search on weekends or at evenings/night, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline which is a 24-Hour service on 0808 2000 247. 

How to make a homelessness application

If you are not safe in your home, either because the perpetrator lives with you, or knows your address, then you are entitled to approach the council for assistance. If you do not feel safe in the area in which you currently live, then you are entitled to approach any council in England and Wales.

This is called a Homelessness application. In order to access this route, you will need to have ‘eligible’ immigration status, this means you are a British national, have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, or are any EU National exercising your Treaty Rights. 

To begin this process you can call the housing department of your chosen council and request an appointment. Some councils will not offer appointments, and they may ask you to come in in person and wait to be seen by a housing officer. When you see the Housing Officer, you will be interviewed about your circumstances. You have the right to ask for a female interviewer, if you feel more comfortable. It is a good idea to bring ID, proof of housing history, proof of income such as bank statements, payslips or benefit letters, medical evidence if you have any medical conditions, and any information you have about the domestic abuse that you have experienced, such as police reports, doctor’s letters, letters from Children’s Services, or any other agencies that you have received support from. 

The council will want to establish if you are in ‘priority need’ for assistance. This means that the council consider your household to be particularly vulnerable. Households in which there are children, or pregnant women are considered to be in priority need. If you do not have children, you may still be in priority need if you are elderly, have physical or learning disabilities, have mental health difficulties, are fleeing violence or abuse, have spent time in care, prison or the armed forces, or have any other vulnerabilities. The council will assess priority need on a case by case basis. If the council believe you to be in priority need, then they have a duty to provide you with emergency temporary accommodation that day. If you are not in priority need, the council may not provide you with emergency accommodation, but still have a duty to advise and assist you in finding safe accommodation. 

The council have a duty to assess if you are ‘intentionally homeless.’ This means, if you did anything that may have led to you being homeless. If you have had to flee your home due to abuse, then this is never your fault, and the council should not find you to be ‘intentionally homeless’.

The council will work with you to develop a ‘Personalised Housing Plan’, to help you find somewhere to live within the next 8 weeks. The Plan will have actions both for you and your housing officer to complete and must be agreed on by both of you. If your housing officer asks you to do something that you are not able to do, then you have a right to tell them this. 

The council have 56 days to make a decision on your Homelessness Application. If the council accept a duty to house you, then they may offer you privately rented accommodation, or they may put you on the social housing list. The wait for a social housing tenancy (a council property or housing association property) can be very long, sometimes several years, particularly in popular urban areas. However, the council have a duty to provide you with some form of safe and suitable temporary accommodation until they have provided you with permanent accommodation. 

If you need more support about how to make a homelessness application, you can call our helpline on 01736 367539

Secure tenants

You may have a secure council tenancy, or housing association tenancy. If you flee your home, you may be worried about losing this. You can speak to your landlord about transferring to a new property. You can approach your designated housing officer, or request to speak to the safeguarding lead, or anti-social behaviour team. You will probably have to tell them some information about the abuse you have been experiencing, and explain that you do not wish to remain in the property.

Dual benefits

If you have left your home because of abuse or fear of abuse, you can get housing benefit for both your old home and the home you are staying in now.

If you intend to return to your old home, you can get housing benefit for up to one year on both homes. You can get dual housing benefit for up to four weeks if you do not intend to return to your old home. 

If you cannot get council support for housing

If you have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ then the council do not have a duty to assist you with housing. ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ is an immigration status that means you cannot access state funds such as welfare benefits. This includes housing. Your entry stamp or Biometric Residence Permit will usually specify if you have No Recourse to Public Funds.  However, you may still be entitled to support with accommodation and living costs if you are destitute and fleeing domestic violence. If you have dependent children then you can approach your local council’s Children’s Service and request support. You may be seen by a social worker, or they may have a designated No Recourse to Public Funds team or staff member. They will assess if they have a duty to support you and your children while you seek immigration advice.

If you do not have children, but have medical or social care needs, you can approach your Adult Safeguarding team to request assistance.

Other helpful information

Rights of Women

Free legal information and advice about family law.

Rights of Women legal guide

Domestic violence and immigration law the “domestic violence rule" 

This legal guide explains the immigration law and policy relevant to women from abroad who are in the UK on a spouse or partner visa and are experiencing domestic violence. The domestic violence rule, explained in this guide, may apply to you if you are in the UK as the wife, partner or civil partner of someone who is British or has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

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