WOMEN FLEEING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ENTITLED TO HOMELESSNESS ASSISTANCE
WOMEN'S REFUGES PROTECTED FROM BED-BLOCKING
The House of Lords has held today (Wednesday 1 July 2009) that women who are occupying rooms in women's refuges, having fled domestic violence, do not have any accommodation which it is reasonable to continue to occupy. As a result, they are "homeless" within the statutory definition of homelessness and entitled to the benefit of homelessness assistance from local housing authorities under Part 7 Housing Act 1996.
The House of Lords rejected an argument by Manchester City Council and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that women living in refuges had "accommodation" and would not necessarily be homeless. Giving the leading judgment, Baroness Hale of Richmond referred to the submissions by the Women's Aid Federation of England:
"They point out that a refuge is not simply crisis intervention for a few nights. It is a safe haven in which to find peace and support. But it is not a place to live. There are rules which are necessary for the protection of residents but make it impossible to live a normal family life. It is a place to gather one's strength and one's thoughts and to decide what to do with one's life. The choices facing a woman who flees domestic violence are complex and difficult." (para 43 judgment).
The judgment in the linked cases of Ali and others v Birmingham City Council, Moran v Manchester City Council  UKHL 36 is available HERE.