Domestic violence offenders face eviction from Midlothian council houses

Domestic abusers could face eviction from council houses under tough new measures to protect their victims in Midlothian.

Midlothian House, Dalkeith, headquarters for Midlothian Council.
Midlothian House, Dalkeith, headquarters for Midlothian Council.

And those who have suffered violence could be moved up the council housing waiting list.

It comes as figures revealed more than 1200 domestic abuse incidents were reported to Police Scotland in the county between April 2019 and March 2020 – nearly four a day.

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Midlothian councillors have approved a new safe housing and homelessness policy, which will ensure survivors of domestic violence are given more protection.

It would see the awarding of domestic abuse points to tenants on the council’s general needs waiting list for a house so they get a higher priority.

Further ‘management transfer points’ for tenants who are in life threatening situations in homes would also be given.

The policy said: “For those who are in joint tenancies we will give the survivor the choice to remain in the tenancy or apply for alternative accommodation.”

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Although the majority of victims reported to police in the year before Covid were women the new policy entitled Equally Safe Housing and Homelessness is gender neutral.

It sets out how efforts will be made to ensure the victims do not have to leave their homes or declare themselves homeless while those who attacked them face tough sanctions.

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The policy includes an option to offer alternative accommodation to offenders who are willing to move on a voluntary basis.

Another possibility would see their Scottish secure tenancy changed to a short short one if they are convicted of an offence in or around the home in question.

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A short secure tenancy can end after six months with no guarantee of succession.

The policy adds: “In exceptional cases we will raise action to seek possession of the tenancy against the perpetrator where there is significant evidence of relevant ground for repossession.”

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The council’s cabinet approved the policy at a virtual meeting on Tuesday promising to provide a “proactive housing response to all who have experienced gender based violence.”

A team of specially-trained domestic abuse support staff will work with survivors to help them – with additional training given to housing services staff on how to assist people who report gender-based domestic abuse.

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On council tenants, the policy adds that any report of gender based violence will be dealt with within 24 hours where possible working with the survivor to put them first.

It says: “We will work to the person’s requirements, telephone interviews, preferred gender interviews, translations services.

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“Officers will empathise, listen attentively and objectively case by case, assess all options, interventions and safety measures. Then agree an action plan, monitor and review this plan.”

A report to cabinet said the policy would include the approach to the provision towards sustainment of tenancy and housing options.

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It added: “The intention of this policy is to provide positive outcomes for thesurvivor and provide clarity on the role of housing and homelessnessservices for those affected by gender based violence.

“This may also include action against the perpetrator should they be a tenant of a Midlothian Council property.”

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The policy was unanimously supported by councillors.