Responsibility for the development and provision of services to support victims of domestic violence rests with my colleague the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and I understand that the delivery of these services is managed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
In terms of housing services, in 2017, my Department issued policy and procedural guidance to local authorities relating to the role they can play to assist victims of domestic violence. The guidance is also a useful reference for service providers working in the sector, highlighting where they can be of greatest assistance to their clients, covering a range of scenarios that may arise for victims of domestic violence currently in receipt of social housing support and those seeking social housing supports. These include provisions whereby a household may transfer out of their existing tenancy and into a new tenancy agreement with the local authority or they may access an independent tenancy in the private rented sector utilising the various housing supports offered by the State.
In relation to entitlement to a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) package, in order to qualify for HAP, a household must be qualified for social housing support by their local authority, which means the household must qualify to go on the local authority housing waiting list. HAP tenants find their own accommodation in the private rented market and are advised that this accommodation should be within the HAP rent limits provided to them by the local authority.
The guidance document outlines that victims of domestic violence that had been in a joint local authority tenancy can be eligible for re-entry to the waiting list where a deed of separation is in place. Where such a deed does not exist housing authorities may use discretion to allow applications, the guidance document does not address whether the spouse should remain at home while the victim has been forced to leave.
A housing authority may also provide short-term emergency housing to persons who are unable to return to their homes because of domestic violence on a humanitarian basis without having to assess their eligibility for social housing support or include them on the authority’s waiting list for housing supports.
The guidance was introduced with the objective of supporting a partnership approach by statutory agencies in respect of the delivery of domestic violence services, particularly in relation to helping to prevent and reduce the occurrence of related homelessness and facilitating the provision of long term accommodation for victims of domestic violence.
Furthermore, Section 3 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997 provides that a local authority tenant can apply to the District Court for an excluding order against a person, including a joint tenant, who is engaging in anti-social behaviour. A housing authority may also apply for the excluding order where it believes that the tenant is deterred or prevented by violence, threat or fear, either to himself or herself or to persons associated with him or her, from pursuing an application for an excluding order. Anti-social behaviour for this purpose is defined to include any behaviour which causes or is likely to cause any significant or persistent danger, injury, damage, alarm, loss or fear to any person in the house, including violence, threats, intimidation, coercion, harassment or serious obstruction of any person and behaviour which causes any significant or persistent impairment of a person’s use or enjoyment of his/her home.