In this review, Burnet provides a comparative analysis of international practice and perspective relating to domestic abuse and varying housing models and good practice, based on 60 service visits across the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia. This is a thorough, practice and solution-led review which makes the case for a shift in thinking to how we can support people with minimal disruption while holding perpetrators accountable through sanctions or modifying behaviour. Burnet brings a fresh criticism to the over-reliance on the Criminal Justice System and the insistence on Shelter/Refuge model when responding to domestic abuse and advocates for diversification of housing and support approaches to cope with the needs and preferences of individuals and families affected by domestic violence. She also makes a compelling case for a holistic rethink of affordable housing, housing and domestic abuse legislation and housing workforce development.
The report builds on three sections with a focus on (i) self-determined advocacy and trauma informed services; (ii) intersectionality and (iii) differing housing models.
Section (i) critiques the assumption that self-determined advocacy and Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is the norm across housing and support provision for people affected by domestic abuse and demonstrates that the systems in place often falls short on achieving this on the ground. The observations on the tendency to offer a menu of services and expecting individuals to fit their journey and their relationships with themselves, family and wider community is particularly profound. The case study which demonstrates how a systems-approach to commissioning in Iowa brought partners from sexual assault services, domestic abuse services and community-based organisations (including schools, employers and faith-based organisations) provides a sharp contrast to the current competitive tendering processes in the UK.
Section (ii) reflects on how systems outside of housing can perpetuate the root causes of violence against women and highlights the importance of communities developing their own tools to find their own solutions. Where the report is clear on the need for a holistic approach to tackle the root causes, how housing and support organisations can work with the local communities and who should work in this work remain a further area of study.
The final section compares housing models and provides insight into different tenure models from transitional arrangements to Housing First, whole family approaches versus a focus on individuals, risk assessment and multi-agency working and programmes for perpetrators. First, the review urges organisations to reflect on why and how women get stuck in transitional housing for long periods of time (over 2 years), its impact on their lives as well as the impact of not having accessible housing for other women who may need it. On the other end of the spectrum, the Housing First model an in particular the use of Flexible Assistance funds is interesting, but it is my view that further consideration will need to be given to identify a suitable funding model and review its scalability. Second, the legislative disincentives ranging from extra cost for calling the police to evict which make the act of reporting and leaving an abusive situations (particularly in the USA) a gloomy read. The author makes a strong point about the need for reviewing HCA regulation on ASB in order to address domestic abuse. It is my conviction too that there is a real opportunity for DAHA to influence this regulation, Housing Providers and training the housing workforce.
Overall, Burnet’s review is a critical addition to both the literature and the housing practice, especially in the way it questions the role of housing organisations among others on how the least disruptive option for women and children can be developed.