Response to Sisters Uncut protest
In response to today's protest by campaign group Sisters Uncut, Mayor Philip Glanville responds to their claims and explains the work Hackney Council are doing to support victims of domestic violence.
Tackling domestic violence in Hackney is something I take extremely seriously. That’s why one of my first acts as Mayor was to appoint an advisor to lead on our work to eliminate abuse and make sure this commitment was at the top of the Council’s agenda.
In 2015 there were 2,500 reported incidents of domestic abuse in Hackney, but the real number is believed to be much higher. That is simply unacceptable. So despite continued government cuts, we have increased spending on domestic abuse services and ensured we continue to fund one of London’s highest number of refuge spaces.
Last year I met the campaign group Sisters Uncut for constructive discussions about how we could further improve the support we provide to abuse survivors, and I made a number of commitments about expanding our use of empty homes for temporary accommodation, renewing staff training and exploring if we could use hostels more appropriately.
We’ve made progress on each of these. More than 50 extra homes set for demolition under regeneration plans have been refurbished so we can use them to temporarily house families most in need of somewhere to live. All staff in Council-run hostels have been given extra training about domestic violence, and the vast majority of survivors who approach us for help are now placed in self-contained flats or in Council-run accommodation.
Some of these changes take time, and I’m frustrated that we haven’t been able to make as much progress as I’d have liked. But our commitment remains resolute – we will do everything we can to improve the domestic violence services we provide and make sure that anyone experiencing abuse knows that when they are ready, we are here to support them. We will continue to invest in these services, make the support we offer better, expand the use of empty homes and most importantly, build as many truly affordable Council homes as we can.
Some of the claims Sisters Uncut make are simply not true. Our estate regeneration schemes will see a net addition of social housing and every Council tenant has the right to return to a brand new home at the same rent. We are also reviewing several of our schemes – including Marian Court – to see if we can deliver even more badly needed social housing. And last year, we launched our new Housing Supply Programme, which will see the Council directly deliver hundreds more new homes, with 70% of the homes for genuinely affordable social rent and shared ownership.
I have been extremely vocal about how the Government’s housing reforms will exacerbate London’s housing crisis and do nothing to help residents in Hackney struggling to find an affordable place to live. Through speaking out in Parliament, joining marches and writing to ministers, we have secured victories to stop some of this damaging legislation. Recently, the Government backtracked on its damaging Pay to Stay proposals and delayed forcing councils to sell so-called high-value homes. We will continue to make the argument to Government about the scale of the housing crisis and that their response so far will only make things worse.
In November, I stood on the steps of Hackney Town Hall to launch a landmark campaign to end the scandal of violence against women and girls in our borough – alongside abuse survivors, charity workers, NHS staff, police officers, trade unionists, young people and ordinary local people.
Rather than launch protests, that previously have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the Town Hall – money that could be better spent on frontline services – Sisters Uncut should join these partners in tackling the scandal of domestic violence and target Government policies that make it harder to respond to the challenge.
If you are 16 or over, male or female, you can contact Hackney Council’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Service anonymously by calling 020 8356 4458, emailing email@example.com or visiting the Domestic Violence webpages. Anyone needing help or support can also contact the 24-hour free national helpline on 0808 2000 247. In an emergency always call 999.