News | Press Release

10 January 2024

Refuge responds to new ONS report on ‘temporary safe accommodation’

Responding to a new research report released today by the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) ‘Survivors of domestic abuse and their lived experiences with temporary ‘safe’ accommodation in England’ Sophie Ireland, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Refuge, said: 

“As the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse and gender-based violence services, we were happy to serve on the advisory board of this much-needed report into best practices for temporary ‘safe’ accommodation released today by the ONS. It is important that survivors’ voices are heard, and their stories are told so that vital improvements can be made for the as many as 1 in 4 women in England and Wales who experience domestic abuse. 

We welcome the findings in this report that survivors of domestic abuse received good quality service provision from refuges. This specialist service that we and other experts in the violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector provide is life-changing and often lifesaving, however at Refuge we know only too well that survivors of domestic abuse are experiencing many barriers accessing and moving on from temporary safe accommodation and that support for housing for survivors throughout the country is patchy and poor despite national government requirements. 

The housing crisis is deeply impacting survivors of domestic abuse, and this has been further exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis. Over the last couple of years at Refuge we have seen survivors stay longer in our refuges due to a lack of suitable accommodation for survivors to move onto and begin to independently rebuild their lives with more long-term options. Sadly, when suitable housing options are not provided the only alternatives for many survivors is to stay with an abuser or face homelessness – an impossible situation which is becoming all too common for women in this country due to the crippling cost-of-living crisis. 

This report also highlights that survivors are having to navigate complex processes around temporary housing options, and not feeling that they have any involvement over decisions affecting them, which has a hugely detrimental impact on their physical and emotional safety.  

The Domestic Abuse Act provides a statutory duty on local councils to provide temporary safe housing, but we know demand is far outstripping availability with available refuge places in England and Wales being 22% lower than the minimum recommended by the Council of Europe. We know specialist services such as refuges are often the best form of support when it comes to temporary safe accommodation for survivors, and it is essential we see further investment in our vital services so that we can continue to provide this much-needed support.”