Domestic Abuse, Housing and Homelessness in Scotland: An Evidence Review

There has been little research on the relationship between domestic abuse, housing and homelessness, especially in the Scottish context. This review provides some secondary analysis of relevant homelessness and housing statistics to provide a more in-depth overview of the scale of domestic abuse as a contributory factor to homelessness in Scotland.


Statutory protection for women and children experiencing and fleeing domestic abuse is relatively strong in Scotland, providing legal entitlement to homelessness assessment and to housing. However, there is a lack of evidence of the extent to which the provision of accommodation and support, including re-housing support is meeting the needs of women and children facing domestic abuse in Scotland.


  • There were 53,681 recorded incidents of domestic abuse in 2008-2009.
  • Domestic abuse has long been recognised as a major contributory factor to homelessness. Research and official statistics show that women are more likely to be victims and to report related loss of accommodation.
  • A violent or abusive dispute within the household was the fourth most common reason for all homelessness applications in 2008-2009 (6,160, 11%). 74% citing this as the main reason are from women, comprising single women at 34% or single women with children (40%).
  • Households fleeing domestic violence or abuse accounted for 13% (4,665) of all priority need homelessness assessments.
  • Many commentators note the limitations of official homelessness statistics as an accurate picture of the association between domestic abuse and homelessness.


  • Refuges have traditionally been the main response to supporting women threatened with homelessness due to domestic abuse. Studies have shown that shortages in provision could be problematic for access in a preferred location and inadequate provision to meet needs may contribute to repeat homelessness.
  • A study found that obtaining exclusion orders with adequate force to protect women while they remain in the family home was difficult because of limited victim-centred legal processes and professional attitudes. There is a lack of evidence on the extent to which women in Scotland are enabled to remain in the family home.
  • Official statistics show that the majority of women fleeing domestic abuse and presenting as homeless secured permanent accommodation, the majority securing a local authority tenancy. Temporary accommodation was only offered to around 1% of women with children fleeing a violent or abusive dispute.
  • There is a lack of evidence on the homelessness outcomes and accommodation provision for perpetrator and male victims of domestic abuse.
  • 27% of priority need cases stating their main reason as fleeing domestic abuse also identified a support need. The most common support need was a mental health problem followed by basic housing management and living skills. Single women fleeing domestic abuse were also more likely to identify support for drug or alcohol dependency.
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