Coronavirus: Domestic abuse victims to get ‘priority’ for housing

Domestic abuse victims in England will be given priority for housing following a rise in incidents during the coronavirus lockdown.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced a raft of measures to support “the most vulnerable” in society at the Downing Street COVID-19 briefing, as the UK death toll climbed to 28,132.

He promised abuse victims would get “priority need” status for access to local housing and said £76m would be poured into increasing the number of refuges, counsellors and help charities offer helplines.

The number of domestic abuse killings has more than doubled during the lockdown and phone calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline have risen by 25%.

Mr Jenrick said that the Domestic Abuse Bill going through parliament at the moment would create “the first ever legal definition of domestic abuse”.

“As a father of three girls, I cannot even imagine women and young children being put in this situation – but they are,” he said on Saturday.

“We must be alive to the reality of what is happening in all too many homes across the country…

“You are not alone, you do not have to stay at home, you can and should leave the home if you’re in danger.”

Labour said the government had “not been moving quickly enough” on support for domestic abuse victims and added that it would “call for more action”.

But shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds welcomed the announcement, saying: “We will look at this package closely to ensure it is sufficient to meet people’s needs and that the money gets where it is required quickly.”

Additionally, more than 5,400 rough sleepers known to councils have been offered safe accommodation in the past month, Mr Jenrick said.

He announced the government’s homelessness adviser, Dame Louise Casey, had been put in charge of a new taskforce designed to try and ensure those people helped so far do not return to the streets when the pandemic is over.

Mr Jenrick also urged those with lockdown fatigue to keep following the “stay at home” emergency rules.

He said Prime Minister Boris Johnson would outline the government’s plan for the “second phase” of tackling the coronavirus pandemic next week.

The lockdown is due to be reviewed by Thursday 7 May.

Next week Kay Burley will be hosting a live Q&A with Health Secretary Matt Hancock. You can put your questions to Mr Hancock about the coronavirus and its impact on your life live on Sky News.

Email us your questions – or you can record a video clip of your question on your phone – and send it to [email protected]

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