In July 2021 the Domestic Abuse Act was introduced, making it easier for people experiencing domestic abuse to get support from councils to leave an abusive environment. 

akt support lots of young people who are experiencing domestic abuse from family or an intimate partner. Sometimes this is related to their gender and/or sexuality and means they need to leave. This resource will help you to understand:  

What is domestic abuse?  

The law takes a wider view of domestic abuse than just physical violence. We support young people who are experiencing domestic abuse but don’t know it. So what does the law say? 

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 says that domestic abuse occurs where someone (aged 16+) behaves in a way that is abusive towards another person (aged 16+) who they are personally connected to. 

What does personally connected mean?  

The law says you are personally connected if you are:

  • Family members (including parents, carers or guardians)
  • In an intimate relationship or used to be in an intimate relationship. There is no requirement to have lived together, or still live together.

Domestic abuse is never the fault of the person who is experiencing it. You are not alone and support is available.

What behaviour is abusive? 

The most obvious form of abuse that people understand is physical abuse – hitting, kicking, punching, slapping – but the law also recognises a larger range of behaviour as abuse; some are subtle, and you might not think they are abuse.  

The law says that any of the following actions are abuse. 

  • Sexual abuse including sexual exploitation 
  • Violence or threatening violence 
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour 
  • So-called ‘honour’-based abuse including forced marriage and conversion therapy 
  • Economic or financial abuse - this is when they have some or all control over your finances and money, which might make you depend on them financially and feel you can't support yourself
  • Psychological, emotional, or other abuse such as racism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia 

We’ve supported many young people who have been subjected to abuse at home and don’t realise.

Our friends at Galop, the LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity have developed a really useful resource for LGBTQ+ people that can help you identify if the behaviour you’re experiencing is abuse. It may be a good idea to speak to Galop before you decide to leave.  

You can contact Galop’s National LGBTQ+ Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 999 5428 and speak to a trained adviser if you’re not sure.  

If you feel you may be at risk of forced marriage or honour-based abuse (HBA) you can reach out to Karma Nirvana for support.

I am experiencing abuse and I need to leave…. but who is going to help me? where will I go? 

If you are in immediate danger, you should always dial 999.  

If you have nowhere to go, you can contact the housing department at your local council to make a homelessness application. The council must accept your application and provide you with interim accommodation if you may be experiencing domestic abuse. You do not have to provide proof.  

Contact details will be on your council’s website (usually under housing and homelessness). You can use Shelter’s council finder tool featured on their ‘How to ask the council for help’ page 

If you are at risk from the abuser in your area you can approach any council in the country. They can’t send you back to your own area.  

The Housing Act 1996 puts legal obligations on councils to help people who may be experiencing domestic abuse. The law says: 

  • People experiencing domestic abuse are legally homeless, even if they haven’t been asked to leave their home.  
  • People who leave their home due to domestic abuse are in priority need and the council must provide interim (emergency) accommodation while they conduct inquiries (usually a hostel or B&B for a single young person). 
  • If you are a British or Irish Citizen (or a citizen of another country with leave to remain in the UK and recourse to public funds) they must help you.  
  • It is unlawful councils to refuse to accept an application and provide you with emergency accommodation if you have explained you are at risk of domestic abuse. 
  • The council must assess your situation and draw up a personalised housing plan to help you find somewhere to live within 56 days.   

If you don’t want to approach the council directly you can also consider refuge accommodation. Once safe in a refuge the staff can support you to make a homelessness application. You can contact the following domestic abuse services to find out how to be referred to a refuge: 

Galop (for LGBTQ+ people)  

Refuge (for women) 

Respect (for men) 

Shelter’s advice page contains detailed information about the council’s responsibilities towards homeless people.  

I’m 16 or 17 and the Housing department say they can’t help me! What do I do? 

16- or 17-year-olds who ask the housing department for help must be referred to social services for a ‘child in need assessment’.  

Social services have legal duties to assess if your home is safe. If they decide that you aren’t safe to remain at home, they have a duty to accommodate you and decide what level of care is appropriate until you turn 18.  

The housing department should never turn a 16- or 17-year-old away. They must accept your homelessness application. If it takes a few days before social services can assess you, the housing department must provide you with accommodation until social services can accommodate you.  

In some situations, social services may decide you don’t need support and you must stay in your family home. You may not agree with this and have a right to ask them to look at this again.  

You have a right to appoint an independent advocate through organisations like NYAS and Coram Voice, who can ensure that your is voice heard when dealing with social services and challenging decisions you disagree with. 

The council say they need to ‘conduct inquiries’ does this mean they don’t believe me? I’ve got no proof or witnesses! I don’t want to get my family into trouble! 

Councils conduct inquiries to verify that a person is at risk of domestic abuse - it is a standard part of the homelessness application, so don’t let this worry you! The law says the council must provide you with emergency accommodation whilst they do this.  

As a young LGBTQ+ person, leaving your home due to domestic abuse can be scary; you might not have ever lived away from home before, you may not have told anyone about what’s happened, or you may have lots of worries and questions about the process.   

In some cases, the housing department will be the first people you’ve told so there will not be any witnesses or evidence. The housing department should support you in a sensitive and flexible way. For example, you might want a caseworker to advocate on your behalf or arrange the initial assessment with the housing department in a safe place. The council should always have your safety in mind and be looking to link you in with the right support.  

Councils should never contact the perpetrator without your consent. However, if you have younger siblings or children and the council believe they are also at-risk then social services may need to assess that they are safe. 

The government’s guidance to Local Authorities recognises that LGBTQ+ people experience higher levels of domestic abuse; they highlight that professionals in mainstream services don’t always understand the unique needs of our community or the barriers we face, so it may help to contact Galop if you feel your voice isn’t being heard.  

 The council say they can’t help me. Do I have to go back home? 

 If you’ve given a council reason to believe you may be experiencing domestic abuse, they must accept a homelessness application and provide you with interim accommodation. If they do not, they may be breaking the law.  

Sometimes, councils will conduct inquiries and decide it is safe for you to go home, and you may not agree with this decision.  

You have the legal right to challenge the council’s housing department if you don’t think they’ve followed the law or have made a decision you don’t agree with. It’s always best to speak to a housing caseworker if this happens. akt and lots of other organisations such as Shelter, and Citizens Advice can support you with this. If you need a solicitor akt can help you find one. Legal aid is available to cover their costs.  

You can ask the council to continue to provide accommodation pending the outcome of a challenge, but they don’t have to do this.

 I don’t have any money. Will I have to pay for the accommodation? Is food provided? Will I have to pay bills? 

If you’re placed in interim or temporary accommodation, you can make a Housing Benefit claim to cover the costs. Housing departments usually support you to do this.  

Interim accommodation generally has very basic facilities and meals aren’t included so you will be responsible for your own personal costs. 

You need to be 18 to make a new claim for Universal Credit to help you with living costs. Sometimes 16 or 17-year-olds can claim too if they are estranged from their parents, but generally need demonstrate this through social services.  

When you move on to permanent accommodation, you claim your housing costs through Universal Credit. Single young people are restricted in how much they can claim for accommodation, which is usually the ‘shared room rate’ in your area. You may get more if you are: 

  • Claiming PIP care costs due to a disability 
  • A care leaver up to the age of 25 
  • Someone who spent at least 3 months in a hostel or move on accommodation. The three months don’t need to be continuous.  

Remember that there will be bills to pay when you move into your own accommodation, so you need to budget for these too. 

I’ve not come out yet, but I know my family will react badly and may hurt me when I do. Can I leave now? 

Young people often contact us because they’re worried that their family will react badly when they come out. We understand how worrying this is and the impact it can have on your mental health and wellbeing. We’ve put together a list of telephone and online support resources you can access to talk about these difficult feelings.  

Sadly, the housing department or social services would not be able to help you unless your parents had reacted badly to you coming out.  
If you’re over 18, akt can help you identify other housing options if you’re worried about coming out and how your family might react. For example, we could support you with a Rainbow Stater Pack to help with upfront costs of moving into your own accommodation and support you to take practical steps such as getting a benefit claim running and helping you work out what accommodation is affordable for you.  

For 16- or 17-year-olds there  legal and practical restrictions meaning that your options are more restricted: 

  • 16- and 17-year-olds must have a legal guardian with parental responsibility. This can be a parent, legal guardian, or the local authority in some cases. 
  • Social services can’t take 16- or 17-year-old into care unless there is a risk of harm to the young person.  
  • 16- and 17-year-olds cannot claim benefits to pay for accommodation or sign a tenancy agreement which makes accessing private rented sector accommodation difficult. 

If you’re worried about coming out, akt have developed some online resources to support you around your mental and emotional health, as well as practical things to consider: 

Plan For Coming Out

How Do I Tell My Parents?

Remember akt are always here to support you if you need any help around these issues!

You can chat to us online from Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm (or leave us a message outside of these times.)