By: Neil Fawcett
The Walsall Interagency Sanctuary Project (WISP) was launched today at The Council House Walsall. The project will support victims of domestic abuse to remain safely in their own home.

Over the past two years an increased proportion of the people becoming homeless in Walsall, became so because of domestic abuse. The law (Housing Act 1996 as amended by Homelessness Act 2002) says that is not reasonable to expect someone to live in a home where they or a member of their family will probably suffer domestic violence. So unless they can be made safe in their own home the local authority must help them to move. In some cases they may move again and again to keep one step ahead of a violent ex-partner.

WISP will adapt the victim's home in suitable cases by providing a secure internal room, the "sanctuary room", with a solid core door opening outwards so that the door jamb acts as an additional barrier. The door will be fitted with secure bolts and hinges and a viewer. Other security features can be fitted to the house as appropriate, including window locks, anti-arson letterbox, and a panic alarm or direct phone line to the police. Each conversion is tailored to individual needs and circumstances, based on a joint assessment by the Fire Service, The Police Crime Reduction Officer and the individual concerned.

The assessment and fitting will be carried out quickly but the scheme is a longer term solution to improve the victim's quality of life. The immediate step for many victims will be temporary accommodation at a refuge while the victim's solicitor takes emergency legal action to get a non-molestation order against the violent partner and to secure the right of occupation to the home.

The scheme can be considered whether the home is owner occupied or whether it is privately rented or rented from a Housing Association, as long as the landlord consents.

West Midlands Police Domestic Violence Unit (0845 1135000),

Walsall Council - Homeless and Housing Advice Service (tel. 01922 653405, fax 01922 653421, email housing [email protected]),

Domestic Violence Help Line (01922 746574),

Stepping Stones (0800 3895790) free phone number

SAYA - multi lingual (0800 3896990) free phone number

Fawcett & Pattni solicitors are proud to be associated with WISP which is a joint initiative between West Midland Fire Service, West Midlands Police, Walsall Housing Group, watmos Community Homes, Safer Walsall Borough Partnership, Walsall Council, Fawcett & Pattni solicitors, Walsall Domestic Violence Forum Ltd and Caldmore Area Housing Association Ltd.

Fawcett & Pattni Solicitors at http://fp-law.com Links