Article @ Morning Star, published 23 May 2015
Neighbours, friends and campaigners held a solidarity vigil outside Barnet Homes yesterday for a domestic violence victim who has been told she must live just a few doors down from her abuser’s family. Jennifer — the Star was asked to withhold her surname — was left with nowhere to go yesterday when the housing firm, owned by Barnet Council, refused to find her a home outside of her abuser’s postcode area. After being evicted from the soon to be demolished Sweets Way estate, she was transferred with her two children to a property close to her former husband’s family.
But when she asked Barnet Homes to find her a home away from her violent ex, the council refused to help — arguing the last threats she had been subjected to were online and thus “not related to [living] areas.”
A large group mostly composed of women blockaded the entrance to the building for almost five hours highlighting the council’s neglect for the vulnerable family.
Jennifer’s friend and former neighbour Shireen Tasha told the Star: “I feel so angry at them and at their policies towards our community.”
Ms Tasha said that together with other ex-residents of the estate they felt they had to come down and support Jennifer.
“The council discharged their duties towards her and towards her two little children as they wanted to house her near her abusive family,” she added.
And Jennifer’s supporters were enraged when, at an emergency meeting with the council yesterday morning, the mother of two was asked to produce evidence of her abuse. Campaigners say the council and Barnet Homes have effectively broken the 2002 Homelessness Act by failing to perform their statutory duties towards the family.
In letters to Jennifer, Barnet suggests that the family resort to solicitors, the Citizens Advice Bureau or homelessness charity Shelter.
A Sweets Way Resists spokesman said: “Barnet have completely ignored their duties of care and told Jennifer they will do ‘nothing’ for her, because she refused to live in the same postcode as the family of her abusive ex-husband.” He added the group will be talking to solicitors and soon be launching a judicial review of Jennifer’s case. A Barnet Homes spokeswoman was quick to deny allegations that the council has been neglectful and indifferent towards domestic abuse.
However, Barnet Homes chief executive Troy Henshall added: “With the demand for affordable homes in Barnet being much greater than the number of properties available, it is essential that we are provided with the evidence in support of domestic violence claims so we can consider these as part of each individual’s case.”
Barnet Homes holds police records of Jennifer’s physical and verbal abuse by her former husband, including threats made to her via Facebook and email in 2013.