Domestic violence victims desperate to leave their homes can now apply to the Private Rent Housing Benefit Scheme after concerns were raised that COVID-19 restrictions meant victims would be trapped inside with their abusers.
The outbreak has already put immense pressure on emergency shelters which are struggling to cope with any new referrals or requests by victims. However, Roderick Galdes’ Ministry for Social Accommodation is doing all it can to alleviate these unfortunate circumstances.
Those interested must submit an application through the Housing Authority. Persons must produce either a report from the executive police, a report from social workers, evidence that they were previously in care from private or public entities working in the field or any other evidence which may prove that they were caught in a situation of abuse.
The applicants will receive the full benefit if they are also in a zero income scenario.
Activists have warned that the COVID-19 outbreak could create a domestic violence pandemic, with Lara Dimitrijevic from the Women’s Rights Foundation claiming that lockdowns and closures have seen a greater level of physical and sexual abuse.
The issue is pervasive in Malta, with the police receiving over 1,300 reports of domestic violence every single year. Meanwhile, there is at least one domestic violence victim in the emergency department each week.
Laws have become more robust. However, the rate of conviction remains worryingly low. In the first nine months of 2019, just 12 people were found guilty and sent to prison for the crime.
The government will continue looking at other measures to alleviate social burdens brought on by this public health emergency. The rental scheme has already been extended to residents and self-employed persons who end up unemployed or in a zero-income scenario