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    Council House Tenants with Snotty Nosed Kids!!

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    Council House Tenants with Snotty Nosed Kids!!

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    I remember someone saying this to me years back when I told them I worked in a refuge for women escaping domestic abuse. “Oh, those places are full of council house women with snotty nosed kids” they said to me!  I was deeply offended. For a start, what is wrong with someone who lives in a council house? I was brought up in one and still live in one!! The fact is that women who choose to go into a refuge to escape their abuser do tend to be women who are in local authority housing and on benefits. Why?  Well, let me tell you……

    Refuges cost a lot of money!  Contrary to what a lot of people think, the rents to stay in one are high as they have to cover the costs of the building and the support element.  In London, the rents are upwards of about £500 a week! REFUGES ARE NOT FREE!!!

    If you work, you would not be able to afford these rents. But if you are on benefits, you will get help to pay the rent. Women who do work are often advised to give up their job!

    If you own your own house, you may not be able to get housing benefit, therefore you wouldn’t be able to afford to live in a refuge.

    If you have lived in local authority housing prior to going into a refuge, you can be fairly certain that local authority will help rehouse you, although of course, this may take a long time.

    If you already claim housing benefit/universal credit, you are able to claim for help living in the refuge as well as keep the benefit going on your home for up to 52 weeks. This can give a lot of women the breathing space they need to decide whether they want to return to their old home or move somewhere new.

    Women who are fortunate enough to own property or have access to money are actually often trapped within abusive relationships as a result of the reasons above and the stigma that domestic abuse only happens to ‘council house women with snotty nosed kids’.

    I once shared a really interesting article to my social media accounts on a study that revealed higher educated women were slower to report domestic violence – Click here for article.

    A survivor who was quoted in the article stated:

    “I was a victim in a world where there was power, luxury and money. The stigma in those areas is double, because it is not expected, because there is fear of losing prestige, there is a lot of invisible violence”.

    Many years ago, when I worked in a refuge, I used to also work on the refuge’s 24 hour helpline. I took several calls one particular week in the middle of the night from a woman who refused to give me her name or where she was. What she did tell me was that she was married to someone well known and her children went to private schools. She said they were very wealthy and it was all this that was trapping her within the very violent relationship.  She told me of incidents of violence where she had been badly injured but was not able to go to hospital because she would be recognised. That she could not go to a refuge because the press would find out where she was and be camped outside which would put the other women in the refuge at risk of being found. She told me she envied the women who did not have the property and wealth she had and she would give everything to be on benefits and live in a council house! I have never forgotten that woman and often wonder if she ever made it out of the relationship. I didn’t even know her name but I will never forget what she said and how trapped she felt by what most of us wish we had!!

    So if you ever hear someone describe the women that go to refuges as ‘council house women with snotty nosed kids’, please explain to that person that in actual fact, they are the lucky ones!

    Sharon Bryan
    Head Of Partnerships & Development Of Domestic Abuse Services

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”