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Advising people fleeing domestic violence

This page is for housing advisers. If you are a new arrival please click here to go to sections more relevant for you

This page looks at common housing problems faced by people with limited leave to remain who are fleeing domestic violence. References to case law and relevant legislation and regulations are included.

What are the housing and benefit rights of people fleeing domestic violence?

The page on people fleeing domestic violence deals specifically with those who have arrived to join a UK national or settled (with indefinite leave to remain) husband, cohabitee or civil partner, and can no longer stay in the relationship because of violence. Where this applies rule 289A of the Immigration Rules (‘the domestic violence rule’) allows that person to apply to get indefinite leave to remain under certain conditions.

A ‘spousal’ visa gives limited leave to remain with no recourse to public funds and is granted to the husband, wife, civil partner or cohabitee of a British citizen or person with indefinite leave to remain. A person with a spousal visa can apply to the Home Office for a three-month grant of leave outside the immigration rules where:

  • the applicant’s relationship has broken down due to domestic violence
  • they cannot accommodate or support themselves and
  • they intend to make an application to stay permanently in the UK under the domestic violence rule.

The three-month leave period is known as the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession and is intended to give that person enough time to make an application for indefinite leave to remain under the domestic violence rule. It carries no conditions as to recourse to public funds and so enables the holder to apply for universal credit or housing benefit and/or related passport benefits. This is made explicit in the guidance issued by the Home Office. For housing and homelessness services:

  • leave granted under this policy falls within the definition of Class B (exceptional leave to remain granted outside the immigration rules with no conditions as to recourse to public funds attached)
  • If the application for indefinite leave is successful, the applicant then qualifies as a person who falls within Class C (indefinite leave to remain).

Other people fleeing domestic violence have different rights and options. Some of these are covered below.

Anyone fleeing violence can get housing association accommodation but may face problems if they cannot pay the rent because they are not eligible for benefits.

Provision for women fleeing violence

The women's aid network has been advising, housing and supporting women fleeing domestic violence since 1974. Their website offers a directory of organisations that can help women fleeing violence and they also help run the Domestic Violence 24 hour Helpline - 0808 2000 247.

Southall Black Sisters have been campaigning for the rights of black women since 1979 and run a helpline for women fleeing abuse open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9.30 – 4.30 on 0208 571 0800. Their services are open to all. They are also able to provide small amounts of financial support for women fleeing violence with no recourse to public funds.

The Rights of Women organisation specialises in dealing with violence against women and its website offers advice and other services. It has telephone advice lines giving different types of advice - details here.

EEA nationals

Husbands, wives and civil partners of EEA nationals retain their right to reside as family members while the legal relationship continues and also may retain it when it ends. There are special rules that enable this for those fleeing violence: find more about them in the section on EEA family members.

Cohabitees of EEA nationals may face more difficulties because once the relationship has ended they can no longer rely on it to give them rights. They may, however, have other EEA rights:

  • a permanent right to reside if they or their ex-partner have lived in the UK for five years or more
  • a right to reside as the parent caring for the child of an EEA worker because the child has a right to reside to complete his/her education.

See other EEA nationals for more on this.

An immigration tribunal has ruled that the ex-cohabitee of an EEA national whose relationship has ended due to her partner’s violence is entitled to the same treatment as other non-EEA nationals and to be considered for leave in line with the immigration rules on domestic violence. Contact the AIRE centre if you have similar cases.

Refugees, etc

Husbands, wives, civil partners and cohabitees of refugees and people with humanitarian protection or discretionary or exceptional leave to remain usually get the same leave as their partner, and so are eligible for a housing allocation, homelessness services and housing benefit. If the relationship has ended, however, when it is time to get the leave renewed, it is important to get expert legal advice, because the ex-partner or spouse may need to make an application for a further stay based on his/her own fear of persecution, etc. or on human rights grounds.

There are specific procedures to help asylum seekers who need to flee domestic abuse within Home Office asylum support accommodation. See the section on what other organisations can help for refugee agencies who can advise on this.

People from North Macedonia and Turkey

A person from North Macedonia or Turkey with any form of leave, including limited leave with a 'no public funds' condition, is eligible for housing benefit (and related passported benefits) provided that they are also habitually resident. Temporary admission is not sufficient because it does not amount to a right to reside (Yesiloz v LB Camden). For more information see the law on universal credit, HB and CTR. Nationals of North Macedonia and Turkey are only eligible for homelessness assistance or for an allocation of housing if they have some form of leave that makes them eligible: see refugees, people with limited leave, people with indefinite leave.

All other people with limited leave to remain

Partners of people with limited leave to remain are expected to leave the UK if the relationship ends. If homeless and destitute they may be able to get short-term accommodation and support from social services if children or vulnerable adults are involved, and this may include assistance with returning home. If they cannot 'go home' they should get expert legal advice about options to apply to stay in the UK (on human rights grounds or through the asylum system, for example).

Domestic violence and the parents of British children

The parent/s of a UK child citizen who are not EEA nationals and do not possess any right to live or work in the UK of their own must be granted a right to reside if it is the only way to guarantee the right of the child to live in the UK. This right is known as a Zambrano right after the case that established it. In some cases, it may be possible to apply for leave to remain based on family or private life, and ask for such leave to allow recourse to public funds. It is important to get expert legal advice about which of these options is suitable for each case as this is a developing area of law.

Parents with a Zambrano right can approach the Home Office and ask for confirmation of the right to live in the UK, which will be granted (a right to reside under regulation 16(5) of the EEA regulations), but this is not issued to parents where another carer may be available for the child (e.g. the other parent). Domestic violence may, of course, affect the likelihood of this, and parents in this situation should get expert legal advice especially as this is a new area of law and still in development.   

More details are provided on the page for 'Zambrano' carers.

Accommodation and support in other cases with children

People who cannot apply for indefinite leave under the domestic violence rule (or rely on other options such as EEA rules or refugee status) have to rely on social services (see people with social care needs for more on this) or voluntary sector provision if they become homeless or have no income.

A person looking after children can apply to the local authority social services department. They have powers to fund accommodation and support under the Children Act 1989. If there are difficulties with such an application it is best to get specialist advice from a solicitor who is expert in community care, or from a women's aid organisation or advice centre.

In general, such applications may result at best in an offer to fund the return home, unless the applicant has a strong reason to remain in the UK.  If that is the case, it is best to get good immigration advice first, since an application to stay in the UK may then either create some option for accommodation and support as an asylum seeker or be the reason why social services should accommodate while the application to stay is pending.  

Getting help from social services for a vulnerable adult

A person who needs active support and involvement because they are traumatised by the violence may be able to get help under community care provisions.

In England, section 9 of the Care Act 2014  imposes a duty on local authorities to assess the needs of any person who contacts them who appears to ‘have needs for care and support’.  This covers any needs arising from ‘physical or mental impairment or illness’ (and this may include needs arising from trauma or extreme distress).  If the person cannot achieve two or more ‘outcomes’ unaided or without pain then help must be provided, which may include accommodation and support.  The outcomes are:

‘(a) managing and maintaining nutrition;

(b) maintaining personal hygiene;

(c) managing toilet needs;

(d) being appropriately clothed;

(e) being able to make use of the adult’s home safely;

(f) maintaining a habitable home environment;

(g) developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships;

(h) accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering;

(i) making use of necessary facilities or services in the local community including public transport, and recreational facilities or services; and 

(j) carrying out any caring responsibilities the adult has for a child.'

So, if the person is unable to look after him/herself, or perform the basic tasks involved in care, even temporarily, because of the violence, s/he may meet the eligibility criteria and be able to get care under the Act.  For more on this see advising people with social care needs.

In Wales, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 applies to vulnerable adults and to children. For more, see advising people with social care needs in Wales.

Help for asylum seekers suffering domestic violence

Victims who are in accommodation provided for asylum seekers, or who are applying for it, can get specific help to move into refuge accommodation under Home Office procedures (pdf). ASAP provides a briefing (pdf) on the help victims should expect to receive. It has an overview of the practical steps that need to be taken to secure a Home Office funded refuge placement through s98/s95 and s4 support. 


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Background Topics

How can we improve housing for new migrants in the UK?

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