Domestic violence victims' housing

Meeting: 
MQT on 2014-10-22
Session date: 
October 22, 2014
Reference: 
2014/3661
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

Do you agree that access to safe, secure and stable housing is vital for all those fleeing home as a consequence of domestic violence?

Answer

Answer for Domestic violence victims' housing

Answer for Domestic violence victims' housing

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  This is a crucial issue.  We must ensure that there is secure housing for victims of domestic violence.  It was one of the reasons we launched the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy some years ago now, I remember.  Such housing is the duty of local authorities to make sure people do have somewhere they can go.  Because of the rise in domestic violence, one of the few crime types that is going up, MOPAC is actively studying now what boroughs are doing to ensure that they have adequate accommodation for those seeking refuge. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Thank you.  That is a very helpful answer, Mr Mayor.  Do you agree that victims who are secure council tenants should not have to give up their secure tenancy rights to get help with emergency housing? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Normally speaking, you have some line of questioning that is designed to attack Barnet Council.  I suspect that is what is at the end of this.  There will be some detailed case that you wish to draw to my attention.  Often it might be more helpful if you just tipped your hand and told us what your problem was and then we could try to -- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  You will not answer that one? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am in favour of councils making proper provision for those in refuge from domestic violence. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  You will not answer that one.  Do you think victims should have to declare themselves homeless to get a safe place to go? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I believe that councils have a legal duty to provide accommodation as fast as they possibly can. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Do you think victims should have to go to the back of the housing queue if they have to go for emergency accommodation? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I will just repeat the answer.  If this is about Barnet Council and its strategies for dealing with it, I am told it has recently proposed a change to its housing allocation policy.  It thinks there is merit in the statutory homeless route because it would actually accelerate the provision of accommodation for women who are in refuge from domestic violence.  I understand that thinking is disputed. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Let me put this to you.  Under the scenario I have put to you ‑‑

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We are certainly in conversation with Barnet about how it thinks it can provide such accommodation. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  ‑‑ loss of security, being declared homeless and the back of the housing queue are all major disincentives.  Does that not create a risk of under-reporting, a risk of victims continuing to suffer in silence and a risk of perpetrators being allowed to continue undetected and punished?  Is that not a consequence of those things I have put to you? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What I am told - and I am grateful that we are digging now into the issue - is that Barnet thinks, although we are trying to get the bottom of this, that this is the fastest and most effective way to help somebody to get the accommodation that they need.  Whether it is correct in that or not - and Joanne [Joanne McCartney AM] believes that they are not - is something MOPAC is working on. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  It is the Conservative Barnet Council, surprise, surprise, your old friends.  Do you agree with them about this?  Do you agree it is -- 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What I ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Do you agree that people should go to the back of the housing queue?  Do you agree people should have to give up their secure tenancy rights?  Doing that puts domestic violence victims in precisely that position with their policy.  Finding a safe place for usually women and children, who are  

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Look, the answer ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  ‑‑ the victims and requiring them to declare themselves homeless, give up secure tenancy rights and be put to the back of the queue is a real disincentive to reporting.  It is a real disincentive to perpetrators being punished.  Victims will continue to suffer in silence, which is entirely the opposite of what you wanted to see and what we want to see at the beginning of this exchange. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I cannot give you ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  If you are not prepared to make  

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am afraid I ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  ‑‑ representations to Barnet Council about this, you are being hypocritical about this.  You want to see one thing and you are not prepared to do anything about it when a Conservative council is going to make things ten times worse. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are making a series of assertions about Barnet Council, which is your prerogative. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I have the policy here.  

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are using this to ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Have you read this policy?  No, you have not. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ bash them up.  They say that the policy will produce one effect and you say it will produce another effect. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  It is self-evident, is it not?  Self-evident. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Their intention is to help women in refuge from domestic violence to get accommodation  

Andrew Dismore AM:  It is self-evident. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ as fast as possible.  That is their claim.  We want to test that.  We are not necessarily convinced of that, nor are we unconvinced of it.  We want to test that claim. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Complacency, as usual. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is the sensible thing to do.  That is why MOPAC has launched this evaluation. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  You are not prepared to engage, are you?  I have finished. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  On the contrary.  The record of this mayoralty on this issue has been exemplary. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I have finished. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We have invested and we continue to invest far more than the previous administration in rape crisis centres.  We expanded rape crisis provision ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I have finished.  He is waffling again.  

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ massively in this city.  We have hugely escalated the issue. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Waffling as usual.  He will not engage the-- 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  One of the reasons, as most people who  

Andrew Dismore AM:  Waffle, waffle, waffle. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ know about this issue will say, why we are seeing ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Waffle, waffle, waffle. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ an increase in reporting is because people feel more confident to come forward and that is a good thing.  That is because we have put in the rape crisis centres and taken the issue as seriously as we have. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  He is just repeating himself.  Waffle, waffle.