Karishma Dharni

Campaign to Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds Marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 Days of Activism 2013

Home Office Concession for Destitute Victims of Domestic Violence and A Call to Save the Lives of All Women and Children

Update: Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK

On 1 April 2012, the Home Office introduced the Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) concession allowing victims of domestic violence on spousal visas with no recourse to public funds (NRPFs) to access benefits and public housing for 3 months while they apply for settlement under the ‘domestic violence rule’.  The Campaign to Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds, which involves nearly 30 leading women’s and human rights groups, welcomes this concession.  It represents a major victory for the Campaign, and for the rights of women at risk of gender based violence and exploitation.

However, there are many other vulnerable victims who remain without a safety net. These include women in the UK on other visas, overstayers, and overseas domestic workers, who experience gender based violence or abuse and exploitation by their employers. Women who have been  trafficked  into the country are also not adequately protected.  These women are still forced to make a stark choice between staying within an abusive relationship, and risking their lives, and that of their children, and leaving, and facing destitution, and in many cases, also deportation.

Monitoring data collected by the Campaign from some key agencies from across the UK, has found that during the period 1 November 2012 – 31 January 2013, in a sample of 242 women (with 176 children), a shocking 64% did not receive or were not eligible for help under the DDV concession and consequently, were either dependant on limited support elsewhere or destitute.

The data also showed that for those who did receive help under the DDV concession, there was an average of 3 weeks delay in benefit payments, which increased the vulnerability of women and children.    

In this context, the Campaign is also dismayed by the introduction of cuts in legal aid for most people with immigration problems, and an increase in the ‘probationary period’ for spousal visas from two to five years.  These changes undermine women’s ability to escape abuse and gain access to safety and support.

The Campaign calls for the Home Office and other relevant bodies to:

1. Ensure effective implementation of the DDV concession. This includes:

  • Extend the scheme from 3 to 6 months
  • Fast tracking applicants through the benefit system
  • Tracking of applicants by the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) for monitoring purposes
  • Training of professionals, including officials within the Job Centre Plus (JCP), DWP, the UKBA and local authority housing departments on the new scheme, delivered in conjunction with campaign members
  • Applicants having access to telephone, rather than online-only application processes, in the UKBA and JCP/DWP.
  • Professional interpretation services are provided by the Home Office and JCP for applicants who need this service
  • Women’s organisations, particularly specialist BME women’s services, are adequately funded to provide advice and assistance to enable victims to access benefits and housing under the new scheme.

2. Provide benefits and public housing, and the right to permanent settlement, for all victims of gender based violence and exploitation. In the interim, a Home Office pilot should be established similar to the former Sojourner Project (which provided limited housing and subsistence costs for domestic violence victims on spousal visas from 2009-12).

3. Provide legal aid for all victims of gender based violence and exploitation with immigration problems.

4. Abolish the probationary period as it keeps victims in vulnerable and abusive situations for prolonged periods.

Campaign Contacts (where more detailed information on the data is available):
Southall Black Sisters
Tel: 020 8571 9595
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.southallblacksisters.org.uk

Women’s Resource Centre
Tel: 020 7697 3450
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk

25 November 2013

The Campaign members include:

1. Against Violence and Abuse (AVA)
2. Amnesty International UK
3. Angelou Centre (Newcastle)
4. Apna Haq
5. Ashiana Network
6. Black Association of Women Step Out (BAWSO)
7. British Red Cross
8. Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU), London Metropolitan University
9. Eaves Housing for Women
10. Imece Turkish Speaking Women’s Group
11. Imkaan
12. Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO)
13. Kalayaan
14. Kiran Project
15. Latin American Women’s Rights Service
16. Newham Asian Women’s Project (NAWP)
17. Refuge
18. Rights of Women (ROW)
19. Roshni (Birmingham)
20. Scottish Women’s Aid
21. Shakti Women’s Aid
22. Southall Black Sisters (SBS)
23. Surviving Economic Abuse
24. Welsh Women’s Aid
25. Which Direction
26. Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland
27. Women’s Aid (Federation of England)
28. Women’s Resource Centre (WRC)

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