Domestic violence is always a shocking and difficult issue for anyone to survive. For our clients there is often a layer of immigration related difficulty woven into the story that makes it even more complex.
In the first lockdown we saw, as reflected in the national trend, a rise of around 45% in DV cases. Then a lull in the summer months and now it seems worse than ever.
It’s really important we reach out to the communities around us as there have been a couple of sad cases where the situation for women married to British men has been prolonged because the charity or council who spoke with them are unaware of a route out of the relationship for women on spousal visas.
Within a short time of a spousal visa being stopped, a woman must find a way to make a new application to stay in the UK. Often, as a parent of British children this can be a dreadful time because temporarily, she will have no recourse to public funds and therefore be unable to access a refuge or housing support.
The good news is that where we can get involved there is a clear route to quick relief. The government have a good application called a DDVC, Destitute Domestic Violence Concession. This means that with the help if an immigration advisor, she can make the application which gives her, within days, leave to remain outside the rules and three months to gather information for making a further application of Indefinite Leave to Remain.
We have found the DWP and Housing teams to be hugely responsive when alongside our clients we approach them once this leave is granted and recourse to public funds is granted. However, even then there are huge gaps in the system. One lady and her son were recently granted this concession and were moved to temporary accommodation by the council late on a Friday. There was no food, no kitchen, no bedding. The space was warm and had beds and a sink but that’s all. We were able to bring a microwave, kettle and toaster, access to our foodbank and bedding.
We also provided Wi-Fi as her family in another country desperately wanted to talk with her and offer support. In cases that involve children, it’s vitally important that the mother is able to show she has suitable accommodation and support if the father is challenging the custody.
Having face to face support available for women who have faced DV is vital. It’s also vital when we are asking them to supply papers and details that we can build a trusting relationship. Our doors have remained open throughout the pandemic. Some of these women go on to become befrienders for women who are at the beginning of their applications, providing insight and understanding that is deeply important.
We consider ourselves fortunate to be able to stay alongside these clients until their situation is resolved regarding immigration status and then until they have a safe place to live and the support they need around them.