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Dan Gallagher calls for critical action on housing

November 25, 2019 7:11 PM

Dan Gallagher

After more than 3 years of Brexit debate and stagnation, the country is counting the cost in myriad ways. One prime example is the Domestic Abuse Bill, which has had all party support in Parliament, but has fallen by the wayside, a casualty of the unlawful proroguing of Parliament and then the election. Monday, 25th November [is/was] the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and it is both a local and a national issue which we should all be aware of.

On average 2 women are killed by their partner or former partner every week in England and Wales. A recent report from Women's Aid (the national and local domestic abuse charity) makes clear that there is a dire shortage of women's refuges and/or alternative accommodation for women and their children fleeing domestic violence, with the result that they often face the appalling choice of either continuing to live with their abuser or homelessness.

Campaigners complain that the Bill falls well short of what is needed to reform housing law in order properly to protect victims of domestic abuse. Crisis, the national charity for the homeless, has emphasised the need for such victims to be treated as a priority need by local councils.

Without the diversion of Brexit, no doubt the Domestic Abuse Bill, with appropriate amendments, would have reached the statute book some time ago, along with other much needed housing legislation.

A report from the housing charity, Shelter, in December 2018 estimated that 131,000 children would be homeless at Christmas in 2018. The biggest proportional increases over the preceding 5 years included Aylesbury Vale (a rise from 6 to 125 children).

It is appalling that being homeless is still a criminal offence. Between 2014 and 2016 over 3000 people were brought to court for falling foul of the Vagrancy Act 1824, with fines issued and some put in prison cells. The Act must be repealed and the wider housing crisis tackled.

The UK's lack of affordable homes is one part of the housing crisis; another is the poor quality of both owner-occupied and tenanted homes and affordable warmth. Addressing this will be part of grappling with climate change. We can insulate all low-income homes by 2025 whilst reducing our dependency on fossil fuels by generating 80% of our electricity with renewables by 2030.

If Brexit has been frustrating for the population as a whole, it has been devastating in its impact on the most vulnerable in our community. We need to ensure that by Christmas 2020 more children and their parents will be able to enjoy Christmas in a place they can truly call home. The sooner we can stop Brexit and get the country back on track, to tackle the country's most pressing problems, the brighter the future will be for everyone.

Dan Gallagher, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Amersham & Chesham