§ Mrs. Joyce Butler
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further plans he has to help local authorities to make adequate provision for battered wives and their children.
§ Mr. Freeson
Housing subsidy and housing association grant are available for hostel refuges for battered wives. Altogether there are now refuges in at least 67 local authority areas, many of them set up by local voluntary groups with local authority help, and I hope that authorities and associations will now increasingly provide such shelter.
Meanwhile, my Department and that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services are starting further consultations with the local authority associations as to how best the Government can help in the short term to relieve situations where some facilities for battered wives and their families become overloaded, and in the longer term to ensure that there is adequate provision 345W for them, including back-up social support services, across the country. Adequate provision includes enabling battered wives and their families to move back into normal family housing when they feel ready again for an independent way of life. When the consultations are complete the two Departments will issue a joint circular to authorities advising them how they might work towards these goals.
The circular will draw the attention of authorities to the improtance within housing policies of relieving homelessness, as well as other stress. This has been given new emphasis by the Government's announced intention to put a statutory duty for the homeless on local housing authorities.
The circular will provide guidance on the co-ordination of local services and will suggest ways in which authorities can cooperate with one another and with voluntary bodies to provide an extensive service as quickly as possible in present economic circumstances.
My right hon. Friend and I will seek to learn from the experience of local authorities in tackling the problems of battered women as a basis for considering what further Government action might be necessary or possible, and whether it would be helpful to advise on what may be current best practices. We shall report to Parliament when further progress has been made.