29 August 2018

Gentoo is a housing association in Sunderland which has 29,000 properties. We are focused on delivering an outstanding service to customers and have a long history of supporting our customers in relation to domestic abuse.

Every year almost 2 million people in the UK experience domestic abuse and two women are killed every week by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Thousands of victims do not get the right support at the right time. SafeLives found that 85% of victims sought help from professionals five times on average before they received effective help to stop the abuse. As housing providers we are in a unique position to identify and respond to domestic abuse. One of the ways we can do that is through repairs.

How do Gentoo recognise domestic abuse via repairs?

In an attempt to identify victims of abuse earlier, we developed our ‘Cause for Concern’ initiative after analysing repair histories of victims of domestic abuse. Typically, victims had a pattern of specific repair requests including lock changes and damage to windows. Contact Centre and frontline staff taking calls from customers for repairs are trained to report requests for specific repairs to our Neighbourhood Safety Team. If the repair request highlights a cause for concern, a specially trained officer will visit the property in an attempt to investigate discretely if there may be a case of domestic abuse. The reason given to the household for the officer’s visit is to carry out a satisfaction survey on the repair, for example.

We also see our Trades staff as key in the fight against domestic abuse in spotting potential signs of domestic abuse. Operatives have a ‘Something Not Quite Right’ button on their handheld devices which allows them to document if something has given them cause for concern when carrying out the repair. This sends an email with the information to Gentoo’s Neighbourhood Safety Team who follow up the information.

Safe at Home report

We teamed up with specialist domestic abuse charity SafeLives and asked them to help us make the business case for housing providers tackling domestic abuse. One of the ways in which they were able to do this was exploring the correlation between repairs and domestic abuse. They analysed repairs over a two year period (2015-2017).

What did SafeLives find?

SafeLives compared households with no known domestic abuse with those households flagged on our case management system as experiencing domestic abuse. They analysed schedule of rates (SOR) codes where the repairs could be related to domestic abuse (cross referencing with case management system notes) and compared the costs between households.

  • Gentoo recorded 344,280 repairs (2015-2017) at a cost of £39.2 million to the business. Of these jobs 43,470 were flagged as potentially related to domestic abuse, costing us £8.4 million.
  • The average cost of repairs at households experiencing domestic abuse was £1,200 compared to the average cost of £860 in those households where no domestic abuse has been identified.
  • Households with domestic abuse made up 16.8% of emergency or out of hours repairs compared to 7.5% of all other households.

The research found that early recognition of domestic abuse not only best supports our customers but actually makes good business sense too as early intervention can ultimately reduce the costs of repairs.

Further information

Kelly Henderson

Kelly Henderson is Business Manager – Domestic Abuse at Gentoo Group and Co-founder of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA).

Kelly's experience includes roles in housing management, asylum, policy / research. She has a Masters in Housing Management and Policy. Prior to her current role, Kelly was the Domestic and Sexual Violence Lead for Sunderland City Council, co-ordinating the City’s Multi Agency Domestic Abuse Partnership. She is currently undertaking a PhD at Durham University on the role of housing in a co-ordinated community response to domestic abuse.

How to recognise domestic abuse via repairs