A Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) report ‘Social Housing, Domestic Violence and the Public Sector Duty’ which will be launched by Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik on Tuesday (5 September).
The report examines the legal and policy landscape for victims of domestic violence facing homelessness or housing crisis and makes recommendations for change.
The report and conference were funded under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission grant scheme 2022.
Other speakers include:
- Sinéad Gibney, IHREC chief commissioner,
- Sandra McAleer, solicitor,
- Paul Dornan, solicitor, Mercy Law Resource Centre,
- Mary McDermott, chief executive Safe Ireland,
- Dr Méabh Savage, lecturer, SETU,
- Andrea McDermott, clinical manager, Mens Aid,
- Richard Bonham, Navan Law Centre, Legal Aid Board.
The report states that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness, and those housed in domestic violence refuges are not included in homeless figures.
The report adds that domestic violence can often result in individuals having to flee their homes, but they then can face issues in securing adequate alternative accommodation.
Barriers include lack of availability, eligibility criteria such as ‘local connection’, and the complexities caused by applying for social housing without a formal separation.
The report makes several recommendations to bring Ireland in line with the requirements of the Istanbul Convention, to which Ireland is a signatory.
These include increasing refuge places to the required level of one family place per 10,000 people and, procedures for local authorities to evaluate the housing needs of people entering refuges to prevent them entering homelessness at the end of the refuge stay.
The report calls for amendment of section 2 of the Housing Act 1988 so that alleged victims of domestic violence should be recognized as homeless.
The report also states that the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2022 should be amended to allow for a tenant’s name to be removed from the lease in the context of domestic abuse and/or relationship breakdown.
The report finds that housing services need to be more responsive to migrants, minorities, LGBTQI+ and those with physical or mental health disabilities or addiction issues.
MLRC managing solicitor Aoife Kelly-Desmond (small picture) said: “The report reinforces the experience of MLRC – that people who have been victims of domestic violence face particular barriers when seeking access to suitable social housing supports and emergency homeless accommodation.
“Unfortunately, many victims of domestic abuse are forced from their homes and, without appropriate and timely supports, can end up in homelessness. This report aims to shine a light on aspects of law and policy that exacerbate these issues and to make positive recommendations for reform.”