ok so lots of women come to the UK on a visa or residence permit, often dependent on / sponsored by their husband. in most cases they have no recourse to public funds even if they are allowed to work, or they have to have been working for several years before being able to claim. 'no recourse to public funds' means you are not allowed to claim most benefits in the UK, including housing benefit, which is what pays for a refuge/hostel space for homeless people who can claim it.
if a woman flees domestic violence but has no recourse to public funds she is basically screwed. if she has no children, no one has to help her unless she has major additional problems such as a severe disability so that she is a 'vulnerable adult' and adult social care should help (however even if this is the case things are incredibly unpleasant, bureaucratic and fairly hopeless, let's not pretend that the system is falling over itself to support disabled migrants). if she doesn't have major 'additional needs' she basically can choose between the abusive relationship or destitution.
if she has children then 'children and young people's social care' (what used to just be called 'social services') have a duty to support the children under the Children's Act. however they have no duty towards the mother. usually they accommodate the mum and children for a few days while they consult their legal team and then offer a plane ticket to the mother's country of origin. if the woman refuses this, (perhaps because she cannot support her children in that country, has no family support, and/or knows they are likely to die of diseases that don't exist in the uk, as in recent cases i've worked with) 'social care' will remove the children (into 'care') thus 'discharging their duty' and leaving the woman with the same choice as above: abuse or destitution.
these are the choices open to people with valid visas, who are legally here. those who have overstayed a visa, or whose husbands/families etc have denied them knowledge of their legal status are obviously in an even scarier position.
i met one woman who approached social care for help, was offered a plane ticket, refused, had her child removed, ended up sleeping in her neighbour's garage, turned to alcohol and then was allowed even less contact with her child.
anyhow, a social care manager was particularly charming the other day when she said, to my colleague trying to get them to fund safe accommodation for a bit longer instead of forced repatriation of a mum with cancer and her children who had spent over half a decade in the uk, one of whom was born here (doesn't make you 'british' any more though, oh no, not unless at least one of your parents was also born here. seriously.): "we have concerns that she may not be the person she claims to be in her passport". in fact she had no grounds whatsoever for such concerns, but just felt it was a good idea to throw that in there, to put us on the backfoot and to play on what she assumed would be our horror that someone may be abusing the immigration system. i mean. i just don't know what to do with stuff like this. i'm speechless and tired and and furious and don't know what to do. it's like there's a shared vocabulary, shared culture where we're all supposed to join together in watching out for those coming to steal from 'us' and that any amount of cruelty justifies guarding against the possiblity that a foreigner might get something for free.
erm. i am nowhere near being able to articulate this stuff yet, especially not on a tuesday night after work. but. in case you were in any doubt. the immigration system in the uk is made of racism. it screws over abused women, among others, with the spectacular efficiency of a labyrinthine system that no one seems to understand. a lot of people in the 'caring professions' are gatekeeping, colluding with those in power to eject vulnerable, 'unproductive' people even faster than the law can do so. enough for tonight. tired.
campaign to abolish no recourse to public funds for women who have experienced abuse . or take it that bit further.