Huge Delays For Domestic Abuse Victims In Herts

Heart's been told women who've been victims of domestic abuse in Hertfordshire are waiting months to be rehabilited, because of delays in social housing and legal aid.

We've been to a Refuge in St Albans, which has the capacity to look after 24 women and up to 45 children at any time.

They house families who need to escape from abusive partners, often without the money to support themselves in the first few weeks.

This centre offers three months 'emergancy stays,' but tell me the women and children are normally there for closer to nine months, because there isn't enough social housing to take them on after they feel safe enough to live on their own again.

Staff at the centre tell us that often, the women coming to them have been controlled by their partner, and forbidden from working making them finallically dependent and vulnerable.  

Or, the partner they're trying to escape from won't leave the home, which could be jointly owned.

The tough requirements to be eligable for legal aid these days, have also made life more difficult for women over the past few years looking to get justice.

We took these issues to the council, who say victims are prioritised on housing lists, and the rules for getting legal aid had recently relaxed, which should make life easier for them in the future.  

Donna escaped her abusive husband and now lives at the Refuge, she told Heart she'd never heard of them before, but now sees it as a 999 service:

"When I first came, they helped me with getting up, getting dressed, because I never used to even do that.

"Then there was the battle with local authorities and housing, because I was denied housing and they said that 'she'll be ok in the YMCA.'

"If it wasnt for my key workers I don't know what would have happened, they said 'no, no way is she going there' because of the state I was in.

"They fought for me every step of the way."

If you need help, have questions or are after some advice about domestic abuse there are a number of websites to head to:

http://www.refuge.org.uk/

http://stalbansandhertsmerewomensrefuge.org.uk/

http://www.hertssunflower.org/home/where-can-i-get-help

There's also a freephone, 24/7 helpline at 0808 2000247.

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