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21 January 2021

Louisa*, a Spanish citizen in her forties, turned to Glass Door in April 2020 when she lost her job in the hospitality sector at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her caseworker, Martha*, soon recognised signs that Louisa was experiencing domestic abuse. Here is Louisa’s story.

Lockdown led to unemployment

Since arriving in the UK from Spain over three years ago and up until March 2020, Louisa worked steadily, mainly in the hospitality sector. When lockdown went into effect, Louisa lost her job and subsequently struggled to keep up with rent payments.

Before turning to Glass Door, Louisa had applied for Universal Credit twice, only to have both her applications rejected. Martha, Louisa’s Glass Door caseworker, submitted a strong Mandatory Reconsideration (a challenge to a benefit decision). A few days later, the challenge was approved. Louisa was now fully entitled to receive Universal Credit and was given a back dated payment.

While this was good news for Louisa’s financial situation, Martha could sense that her work was not over.

Uncovering abuse

In the process of helping Louisa with her Universal Credit challenge, Martha was introduced to her partner, George*. Her interactions with him left her feeling uneasy; he did not appear to treat Louisa in a respectful way and had a violent outburst in the office. What struck Martha the most however, was Louisa’s behaviour in his company, which was notably passive and subdued.

Martha had a strong suspicion that Louisa was a victim of domestic violence and needed help urgently.

On one occasion, Louisa came to see Martha alone. Away from the eyes and ears of her partner, Louisa broke down and opened up about her home life. Through nervous sobs and shakes, Louisa told of George’s abusive ways. He wasn’t only physically abusive, but also incredibly possessive and controlling, to the point that he had installed tiny cameras around their house to spy on her.

Louisa was terrified and needed to find a way out of the relationship, fast.

Louisa had mustered up the courage the night before to report George to the police while he was at work, which had resulted in a restraining order. He was no longer allowed to contact Louisa directly and could only go to collect his belongings with police present.

The road to safety

Louisa and Martha then worked together to put all the necessary measures in place to help Louisa extricate herself from the relationship safely. Martha called a number of services to arrange counselling support for Louisa.

The next main priority was to ensure that Louisa didn’t lose her rented accommodation due to the breakdown of her relationship, since George was still on their tenancy agreement.

Louisa’s landlady was initially resistant to removing George from the tenancy agreement as she had concerns over how Louisa could afford to pay the rent on her own. After a lot of convincing, she finally agreed to remove him from the agreement, but required his consent to do so, which he subsequently denied.

To make matters worse, in order to receive the correct amount of Universal Credit, Louisa needed a new tenancy agreement to reflect the reality of her housing costs. She also needed it to apply for council tax reduction since she was moving from a two-person household to one. Louisa, Martha and the landlady tried everything to resolve the issue, but ultimately weren’t able to change the agreement.

Thanks to Martha vouching for Louisa’s trustworthiness, the landlady agreed to let her continue renting her property regardless of the tenancy agreement. Martha also convinced the council and Universal Credit team to accept her unchanged tenancy agreement considering Louisa’s awful and exceptional personal circumstances.

Louisa has a lot of praise and admiration for Martha’s unwavering support and dogged determination. She said:

Thank you for not leaving me alone in this terrible moment and for being such a wonderful person.

The bigger picture

Louisa’s story is sadly just one of many domestic violence cases in the UK. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSWE) year ending March 2020, an estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in the last year, resulting in 1,288,018 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes. It also clearly illustrates the difficulties that many victims face when attempting to leave an abusive partner on whom they rely economically.

Louisa’s journey to recovery, emotionally, physically, and financially is far from over, but at least for now, she’s safe, she’s supported, and she’s housed.

*Names have been changed and a representative photo has been used to protect the identity of the guest.

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