Changes to migrant survivor support scheme don’t go far enough, says Domestic Abuse Commissioner

Today the government introduces significant changes to a scheme that supports migrant victims and survivors of domestic abuse who have no recourse to public funds.

For over a decade, the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) has provided migrant survivors who have come to the UK on a spousal visa and have experienced domestic abuse with three months of access to public funds. This opens up a range of benefits that can provide migrant survivors with much needed safety from their abuser, including access to refuge via their entitlement to housing benefit under the scheme.

The scheme has always run in tandem with Domestic Violence Indefinite Leave to Remain (DVILR), allowing survivors to apply for indefinite leave to remain whilst they are being supported under the DDVC.

Today the DDVC becomes the Migrant Victim Domestic Abuse Concession (MVDAC) and expands to entitle partners of people on student and temporary work visas who experience domestic abuse to three months of support.

However, unlike those on spousal visas, this new cohort will not have access to DVILR. Without this clear route to settlement at the end of the scheme, the support accessed via public funds will cease after 3 months. This will leave migrant survivors once more facing homelessness and destitution. It may also prompt immigration enforcement action, which could result in deportation, separation from their children or further abuse in their country of origin.

Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales says, “Whilst I am pleased to see the expansion of this scheme to a wider cohort, the MVDAC scheme doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is truly needed to support migrant victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

“The time-limited support of the MVDAC, and its separation from the DVILR provides no clear pathway for migrant survivors to regularise their status. The DDVC was never meant to be a standalone scheme but rather a measure to ensure migrant survivors could access support in the short term while regularising their status through the DVILR. We know that these schemes work best when they work together.

“I am concerned that these changes will cause confusion for migrant survivors, and for the services who support them, because some will be eligible for both the MVDAC and DVILR, whilst some will only be able to access the MVDAC.

“My report Safety Before Status: The Solutions provided government with two clear scenarios to improve support for migrant survivors. If adopted, my preferred scenario would have generated overall social gains worth almost £2.3 billion over 10 years of supporting migrant survivors.

“I fear that the MVDAC for this new cohort is little more than a 3-month sticking-plaster and will discourage migrant survivors from coming forward. We need thoughtful investment to ensure that all migrant survivors have access to public funds, specialist domestic abuse support, and a route to regularise their status. Anything short of this simply won’t be enough.”