Changes to the School Admissions Code

Response to Consultation from Hestia, Women’s Aid Federation of England and UK SAYS NO MORE

12th October 2020

1. About Hestia, UK SAYS NO MORE and Women’s Aid Federation of England

1.1 Hestia is one of the largest providers of domestic abuse support in London and the South.

1.1.1 Last year we supported 2,225 people to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse.

1.1.2 We are the home of domestic abuse and sexual violence campaign UK Says No More and developed the Bright Sky domestic abuse app in partnership with Vodafone.

1.1.3 We delivered the Tampon Tax funded Everyone’s Business pilot working with employers to provide tools to support employees enduring domestic abuse.

1.2 Women’s Aid Federation of England (Women’s Aid) is the national charity for women and children working to end domestic abuse.

1.2.1 We are a federation of over 170 organisations who provide more than 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country.

1.2.2 We provide support services, which include our Live Chat Helpline, the Survivors’ Forum, the No Woman Turned Away Project, the Survivor’s Handbook, Love Respect (our dedicated website for young people in their first relationships), the national Domestic Abuse Directory and our advocacy projects, help thousands of women and children every year.  

2. Our concerns for children affected by domestic abuse

2.1 950,000 children across the UK are affected by domestic abuse each year, either directly as victims of violence, or indirectly in terms of witnessing violence. At Hestia and Women’s Aid, we know the horrific impact of domestic abuse on their lives.

2.2 Witnessing and being a victim of abuse has catastrophic implications. Children respond to abuse in different ways but may suffer severe mental health issues, become aggressive themselves or engage in destructive behaviour.

2.3 Children are victims of domestic abuse even if the abuse is not directed at them. Analysis from Pro Bono Economics, carried out for Hestia highlights the staggering potential cost to UK taxpayers of children where there is severe domestic violence in the household who are not given support to overcome their trauma as between £480m and £1.4bn.

2.4 Since the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill white paper, Hestia and Women’s Aid have been raising concerns about the need for children to be properly recognised within Government’s response to domestic abuse and in particular that children must not face obstacles to their education because of domestic abuse. We welcome the fact that the Government has listened and amended the current definition.

3. Response to Question 2.2: Do you agree with the proposed changes to the list of children eligible for the Fair Access Protocol?

3.1 We welcome many of the amendments set out in the Changes to the School Admissions Code which seeks “to better support the in-year admission of vulnerable children, including those in a refuge, reducing to a minimum any gaps in their education.”

3.2 However we believe that the definition of “children living in a refuge or emergency accommodation” is too narrow and that these changes should be extended to include children who have moved home as a result of being affected by domestic abuse.

3.3 On average, a woman who has fled domestic abuse with her children to stay in one of our refuges will stay at the refuge for 3-6 months (although for some families this can be far longer due to a range of factors including challenges with move-on, complexity of needs and insecure immigration status). During this time period, the provisions made in the Changes to the School Admissions Code should reduce the amount of time these children are out of school.

3.4 However, when mothers move on from our refuges, it is very often not possible for them to find permanent accommodation in the same area. This is particularly compounded in London due to high rental prices. As a result, their children are likely to have to move school again and under the current proposed changes would not necessarily be eligible for a space under the Fair Access Protocol. In practice this will mean that their education will not only be disrupted by having to move schools for a second time, but also potentially by an extended period out of school.

3.5 In addition, there are many children whose parents have to move home to escape domestic abuse who do not ever enter a refuge. These children would also not be supported by the proposed changes.

3.6 We therefore recommend that the list of children eligible for the Fair Access Protocol be updated to:

“Children living in a refuge or in safe accommodation, or those who have recently moved home as a result of domestic abuse, at the point of being referred to the Protocol”

We do not require this response to be kept confidential